Living Sacrifices 2
We are returning to our text, Romans 12:1-2 this morning and we are going to look further at these verses because there is so much here that is needful for us to appropriate, so much that we need to know, so much self examination that we must undergo in order that we may obey the Lord and be conformed into the image of His dear Son. As Christians our hearts desire is to be pleasing children of our Father in heaven and Paul expresses his pastor’s heart when he says: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your spiritual worship. And do not continue to be conformed to this world but be being transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may approve what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
This is the will of God, that we be conformed to the image of Christ, that we live as Jesus lived. In John chapter 4 Jesus said; “The Father seeks true worshipers.” He redeemed us in order that we might give Him glory: that we might give Him ourselves. Paul writing to the Philippians in chapter 3 verse 3 defines a Christian as one who worships God in the Spirit, who rejoices in Christ Jesus and has no confidence in the flesh. In 1 Peter chapter 2:5 there is a statement that all of us need to be very aware of.
And so as I said last week, we are a spiritual priesthood: every bit as much a priesthood as the Levitical priesthood was, as much a priest as was Melchizedek. We are priests under the Most High God. We are a kingdom of priests whose goal is to offer up spiritual sacrifices, just as the Old Testament priests offered up animal sacrifices before God. But as spiritual priests who serve the living God we are called to offer up ourselves…exactly what Paul said in our text. Indeed what is the conclusion when we’ve said all that could be said about what God has done for us? It is this; we give back to him all we are and this is the sum of the first eleven chapters of this letter. Most Christians never really come to this place because they haven’t been taught the truth…they haven’t been taken to the word of God nor have they been encouraged to read the Bible for themselves. Instead they are given platitudes filled with the philosophy and psychology of the world around them. They buy into the world’s bag. They entertain themselves with the world’s mode of entertainment.
Now the main point in verse 1 is the phrase “a living sacrifice.” That is a very important phrase. As we read from 1 Peter 2:5, we are spiritual priests offering up spiritual sacrifices. The primary sacrifice we are called to offer, Paul says here, is ourselves. Now the language takes us back to the Old Testament and the sacrificial system where the offerer would come to the holy place bringing God his bull or lamb or turtledove. It was given to the priest who took it, slew it, put it on the altar and offered it to God.
With the sacrifice of Jesus this system has come to an end. God no longer desires dead sacrifices but instead He has called us to offer up ourselves as living ones: living men and women. As the essential act of the Old Testament Jew’s religious life, was the presentation of a sacrifice as an indication of the genuineness of his faith, as a symbol of his own life, so the central act of a new covenant believer is the presentation of his heart, his soul, his mind, all that he is as a living sacrifice.
In fact Samuel the prophet nails this truth when he says in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?” “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams.” There is no just going through the motions with God. As is stated in Fireproof either you’re all in or you’re not. It is not the one who says but the one who does who is a real Christian.
And this is a central point here; only a true child of God can or would even consider the notion of obedience to God. An unregenerate person cannot respond to God at all; indeed 1 Corinthians 2:14 declares that the natural man can’t even understand the things of God. They’re utter foolishness to him and the notion of dying to self is the furthest thing from the sinners mind. The sinner is the beneficiary of general grace but even this is not acknowledged by him. But the one who has been born again longs to be conformed to God’s will.
And when he hears the call of God in His word he is filled with a desire to obey. Now here is a command, a call of God to true believers Paul then is speaking to believers saying “I beseech you,” I come alongside to call you to obedience to Christ. It’s very much like what we read in Philemon verses 8-9. Now notice further what Paul says to us in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God by the mercies of God.” What does he mean by that? Simply this; Christians, believers in Jesus Christ have experienced the mercies of God. And since we have experienced the mercies of God, therefore…therefore, we ought to do this.
Now what are the mercies of God? They are everything that God has done for the believer listed in chapters 1 through 11. Consider some of them with me. God’s love is shed abroad in the heart in Romans 5. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Romans 8. Grace–Romans 1, Romans 3, Romans 5, Romans 6, all the way through.
Chapter 5 tells us that the Holy Spirit has been shed abroad in our hearts. Chapter 8 tells us we have received the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Paul repeats it in chapter 8 verse 2, verse 4, verse 9, verse 11, verse 14, verse 16 and verse 26. The Holy Spirit is a mercy given to us by God, an undeserved blessing. Then there is peace. Chapter 1 verse 7, chapter 2 verse 10, chapter 5 verse 1, chapter 8 verse 6 and elsewhere it says we’ve received peace. That’s a mercy of God. Faith is mentioned over 20 times. We have received the mercy of comfort, chapter 1 verse 12, and power, chapter 1 verse 16, and hope, chapter 5 verse 2 and chapter 8 verse 20 and 24. We’ve received patience, chapters 9 and 11, and kindness, chapter 2 verse 4. And we have received glory and honor and righteousness and forgiveness and reconciliation and justification…all of those are the mercies of God. And in chapter 5:10 Paul tells us that we have received security and eternal life in 5:21 and freedom in chapter 6 and chapter 7 and resurrection in chapter 8 and son-ship in chapter 8 and intercession in chapter 8. These are the mercies of God.
So Paul is saying is this; “Look, you have received all of these marvelous mercies from the gracious hand of almighty God has given them. And what does mercy imply? It means that we don’t deserve what has been lavished upon us. But we have been given love and grace and the Holy Spirit and peace and faith and comfort and power and hope and patience and kindness and glory and honor and righteousness and forgiveness and reconciliation and justification and security and eternal life and freedom and resurrection and sonship and intercession, and so much more.
So what should be our response since we have received so much? Does it seem a great thing to ask that we give back to God ourselves? Is that a great thing? And if we do so should we be patted on the back? Luke 17:10 answers this question. Now what Paul is saying here is this ought to be the strongest motivation. Romans 2:4, James 2:13. Paul appeals to our sense of gratitude to God for what He has done. And he is saying that a believer who has received the infinite unending and eternal mercies of God should respond by giving himself as a living sacrifice to the God who gave him so much. To hold back…to hold back at all is an incredible act ingratitude to such a gracious, merciful God.
In Psalm 116:12 we read “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” This is a statement of gratitude from one whom God has smiled upon. And what he was saying is, “I can’t think of anything that would be equal to what He has done for me.” Well, fortunately God doesn’t expect us to return in equal. All He asks is we give ourselves as a living sacrifice. And when we are walking in obedience to the commands of God we are filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory. In John 13:17 Jesus says this, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”
The next thing I want you to notice in Romans 12:1 is that we are called to present our bodies as living sacrifices. Now “present” here is a temple term. It has the idea of surrendering up, of yielding, of offering. It also is a term for the Levitical offerings, to bring it as an offering, as an actual sacrifice. And what God wants here is our body. Indeed it is essential then that we yield our bodies. Now this isn’t the first time Paul has talked about this.
Go back to chapter 6:11-13. John MacArthur says that this reference to ‘the body’ includes the mind and the will. Consider with me 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Within our humanness, within this body of flesh the Holy Spirit dwells in our redeemed soul which is covered by our sinful human flesh. It is in that humanness that sin finds its expression. That is why Paul says in Romans 7, “When I sin it is not I, not that redeemed soul, but sin that dwells in me that is, in my flesh.” So while the soul is redeemed, it exists within a body of flesh which has a bent toward sin, that’s why we are still waiting for the redemption of our bodies and all the while we fight and wrestle with our sinful flesh, longing to receive our glorified bodies that don’t have those evil tendencies. And that’s why Paul says, “With my redeemed self I desire the law of God, with my body I serve the law of sin.” Rom. 7:25
So what we have to do then is offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. We must not offer it to the world or our own desires. We cannot allow its lusts and passions to run rampant. In 1Thess 2:4 we read “Every one of you should know how to possess his vessel, his body in sanctification and honor, not in the lust of evil desire like pagans who know not God.” Here is our calling. But isn’t it interesting how our sinful bodies can dominate our lives? I mean, here we are, redeemed creatures with redeemed souls, indwelt by the by the Holy Spirit of God, the almighty God living in us and yet isn’t it amazing how much power is still there in the body to hinder the work of the Spirit, to dominate the redeemed soul? And therefore it must be brought into subjection, it must be offered to God as a living sacrifice. And it must be offered continually. Just as we are to continue to ask, seek and knock so too are we to continue, moment by moment to offer our bodies as living sacrifices.
Paul gives us an insight into the necessity of this in 1 Cor 9:27 saying, “I keep control of my body and I bring it into subjection lest that by any means when I have preached to others I myself should be disqualified.” And the biblical answer is that we must bring our bodies under the subjection of the power of the Spirit of God. And the implication of Roman’s 6 is that the body can become an instrument of righteousness. Consider this; whenever your body is used for the purposes that are divine it becomes an instrument of righteousness and conversely, whenever it used for purposes that violate the direct commands of scripture it then becomes an instrument of unrighteousness.
So God does not just turn a blind eye at the body and say, “Well, the body is only the body. And it is also important to note, too, that, because vice was so rampant in those days, just as it is in our day, people tended to be tolerant of sin.
Isn’t it absolutely amazing at how many Christians will go and watch a movie that is filled with adultery! It is also amazed that people will sit in front of a television and watch programs that are filled with sexual innuendos, horrific violence, and antichristian dialog. Another area of compromise is found in music that is exalts fornication, adultery and murder. We have become mesmerized by the satanic world system and because of this we have learned to tolerate many things. This is specifically why we need to be refreshed by what the word of God says. There were 3 words in our last Truth Project lesson, Remember, Return and Repent. I think this is part of laying down on the altar and offering ourselves as living sacrifices.
This living sacrifice, this surrender of self in a humble submissive act to God, this, as Paul put it, bearing about in my body always the dying of Jesus Christ, this kind of living sacrifice is the basis of true worship. It is the foundation of all Christian dedication. It is what Paul meant when he said, “For to me to live is Christ and…what?…die is gain.” He said, “I have many things but,” in Galatians he said, “I count all things manure compared to what I have in Christ.”
There was a great Christian in China by the name of Ka Fook. This man was moved with compassion for his own countrymen who were being taken to South Africa to work in the mines. This very prominent man sold himself as a slave to a South African mine company for five years. He became a slave with slaves in order to reach them with the gospel. He died as a slave in South Africa but not before he had won over 200 of his fellow men to Christ…a living sacrifice.
Devereaux Spratt was a somewhat well-known Englishman who in 1641 was captured by Algerian pirates and made a slave. While he was a slave he started a church. And when his release was finally settled, accomplished by his brother back in England, he refused to accept saying he would remain a slave until the day he died in order to serve the church which Christ had begun among the slaves. Today there is a plaque in a church in Algiers that bears his name.
David Livingston, the great missionary to Africa, said, “People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of the great debt owing to our God which we could never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward of healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with such a word! It is emphatically no sacrifice, it is privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering or danger now and then with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life may make us pause and cause the Spirit to waver and sink, but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His fathers thrown on high to give Himself for us.”
This is a living sacrifice that God calls for. And it involves the body, presented to Him as holy and acceptable unto God. Remember that the body of the animal presented in the Old Testament sacrifice was to be without spot or blemish. It was to be the best, the cleanest, the purest. And that is what Paul says, when we present ourselves we present to Him a holy sacrifice, spotless, without blemish. The word used here is the very familiar word hagios which meant to be set apart. It didn’t mean pure, it didn’t mean undefiled and it didn’t mean without sin. Why? Because there wasn’t a word in the Greek language that meant that. Remember that the Greek gods were as sinful as the men who worshiped them. So when someone was set apart to a deity, it had no implication of holiness that we see in it. In fact to be set apart usually meant either human sacrifice or temple prostitute. So there was no word that carried with it any implication of purity or unspotted-ness from sin.
Christianity sanctified this word and now it carries for us the sense of purity and undefiledness and freedom from sin. God wants your body, your mind and all your humanness, brought into subjection and offered to Him as a living sacrifice.
Now this is foreign to many Christians. Oh we’re willing to serve the Lord if it doesn’t cost us a extra time, or take a too much energy, or if we don’t miss our favorite television program. We want to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God but we want to keep a little back so we can indulge in the world and enjoy its allurements and its entertainment. What God wants is an unspotted, unblemished self sacrifice.
And we’re not talking halfway service here. God wants total surrender. There are many willing people who say, “I want to serve the Lord…I want to go in the ministry…I want to be the Lord’s servant.” And they’re nowhere near an unblemished, unspotted total self-sacrificing offering to Him. And half-heartedness doesn’t go too far with God. So question we must ask ourselves is: what are we offering God? When we say, “Oh, I want to give my life to the Lord,” what is it you’re giving? An unspotted, unblemished, holy, pure sacrifice and a heart of total devotion? For that alone, is acceptable unto God. The rest is not.
Look with me to the book of Mal 1:6-13 . Here we have some real pointed stuff. Listed again; The Lord through the prophet Malachi said, “You offer polluted flesh upon the altar.” You know what you’re bringing? Instead of bringing the best you have, you’re bringing the rotten meat. You’re bringing me a rotted carcass. You don’t want to bring me a good one. It may have been that they were actually picking up a dead animal and bringing it rather than bringing the best of their flock. You’re offering the blind to sacrifice. You’re giving Me a blind or a lame or a sick or a maimed animal. He says, “Would you offer that to the governor when you go to pay your taxes?” Not on your life, but you’re offering it to God. Will you do out of fear what you will not do for God out of love? Only a holy sacrifice is acceptable to God. The word acceptable means well-pleasing, satisfactory. God is not satisfied with anything less than that.
However God is satisfied with the sacrifices of total commitment, of purity. Hebrews 13:16 says, “And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” With goodness, with virtue, with generosity…that pleases God is satisfied, then, when we offer our bodies totally holy, set apart, pure, undefiled, and this is, notice at the end of verse 1, this is your spiritual worship. The word “service,” or “worship,” is latreia, it is used in the Septuagint which is the Old Testament Greek text to speak of the worship of God according to the Levitical law. The word latreiais also used in Hebrews 9:6 to refer to the priests who perform the sacred service in the temple.
And here in our text it is used of the believer priest offering up his body in consecrated sacrifice to God. And this worship it says is…some of your Bibles say reasonable…the word is logikos from which we get the word “logic.” It is reasonable, that’s a fair translation, it is intelligent. It is of the inner man rather than of the outer man. In the Old Testament they offered a dead sacrifice which was external service. Now He is saying “offer Me a living sacrifice which is an act of internal worship, spiritual rather than physical.” And we are not talking about a mechanical outward form, drawing near to God with our mouths and honoring Him with our lips whiie our hearts are far away from Him. Instead we are to understand an intelligent heartfelt consecrated devotion to God. This is the true worship of living sacrifice of which dead ones were only shadows, the true spiritual intelligent rational worship of giving our bodies and all they do to God in holy consecration.
And so I say to you, real worship is not elaborate prayers, it is not liturgy, it is not ritual, it is not candles, robes, stained glass, and lofty Bach music. Real worship is not feeling spiritual goose bumps in a church service. Real worship is right here, the intelligent spiritual act of giving to God my body in all of its expressions holy, set apart unto Him. That’s what God wants.
I have to share a MacArthur quote here because it is so opposite of what you will hear in most churches. He says “God isn’t looking for your talent, folks. God isn’t looking for your innate gifts of leadership. God is looking for you to give yourself.”
Note verse 2 which says “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” The mind must be presented for renewal. It is in the mind that our new nature and our old nature meet. It is in the mind that we make choices as to whether we will express that new man in holiness or allow our flesh to act in unholiness. So if the soul is to present the body, the mind must be renewed. And notice how we are to do this. Negatively we are told; “And do not be conformed to this world” Again the language is telling because the Greek word is aion,” which means this present age rather than kosmos, or the world. The age is the fallen unredeemed philosophy of life, or the world system of godlessness. Trench says it so well, “The floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations at any time current in the world.” Be not conformed to that.
The world is an instrument of Satan which he uses to promote his goals and his ends and his ambitions, and you can see it everywhere. You can see in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and in the spirit of pride, a spirit of boastfulness, a spirit of ugly ego. We see it in professional athletes, actors and actresses and politicians
Here is an illustration of the spirit of the age. There was a radio station in San Antonio that decided to give an evening with the Motely Crew, which is a heavy metal group. And so they had a contest on their radio station KISS FM in San Antonio and a teenager was to write, “I will do the following for the privilege of spending an evening with the Motely Crew...” here is what one letter said and mind you these are 13 to 17 year old kids. “I would shave their bodies and where they bled I would suck the blood out of them.” The spirit of the age comes through the music, the movies and the media. It comes at us from everywhere. And we are called by the Spirit of God through the Apostle Paul here to not allow ourselves to become conformed to the satanic standards and immoralities of our time.
In fact in John 5:19 we read: “we are of God and the whole world lies in the evil one.
This is the truth of the matter and Paul says, Be not conformed. It literally means to “Stop allowing yourselves to be fashioned like this evil age…stop allowing it to happen and the assumption is that it’s happening. Paul says “Stop it. Call a halt to it. Don’t sit there and allow it to be done. Don’t yield your members of instruments of unrighteousness to sin…don’t give in to the wiles of the evil one. The word used here is sunschematizo, from where we get our English world scheme. It schematize refers to the act of assuming an outward expression that does not come from within, putting on an act. So what Paul is saying is don’t wear the mask of the world.
One more Greek language lesson which comes from Kenneth Wuest. He said, “Stop assuming an outward expression which is patterned after the age, an expression which does not come from within nor is representative of what you are in your inner being as a regenerated child of God.”
On the other hand, he says, “Be ye transformed,” and we should know all about this from the Truth Project. Metamorphis is the root word and speaks about a total change. Its the word used in Matthew 17 where it says Jesus was transfigured, metamorphed, that is His outward appearance was transformed to reveal His true nature. He was God in human flesh and for a moment His human flesh manifested the God that He was inside it. And we too are to be transformed on the outside to match what our redeemed self is on the inside. So the idea is stop allowing yourself to be conformed and start allowing yourself to be transformed…continually. And that, by the way, is the work of the Holy Spirit who changes us from one level of glory to the next, conforming us to the image of Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:18.
How do we do it? By the renewing of the mind. The word “renewing” here is renovation. The renovation of the mind. How do you renovate your mind? David said it this way, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin. It is the Word of God filling our being. In Colossians 1:28, Paul says we teach every man all wisdom in order to present every man perfect. A perfect life comes out of perfect knowledge. In Colossians 3:10, put on the new man that is renewed in knowledge. Colossians 3:16, let the word of Christ in your richly.
The renewed mind is a mind that is saturated and controlled by the Word of God. Do you spend as much time in the Word of God as you do in the allurements of the world? Have you set your affections on things above and not on things on the earth? When something happens in your life, is your involuntary response biblical? That’s evidence of a renewed mind, a mind saturated with the Word of God, a mind whose constant preoccupation is the Word of God. And it is the renewed mind that resists conformity to the world and allows itself to be transformed. It’s that constant entry of the Word of God that brings about the transformation to a renewed or renovated mind so that a renovated mind then can more readily present the body to God.
A renewed mind will be expressed in a submissive will and in a body presented as a living sacrifice. It all comes in one package. You can’t present your body unless you have a renewed mind because you won’t have the will to do that. But when you have a renewed mind, your will, will be submissive to God and you will offer your body as a living sacrifice. And the key is a saturated mind, an obedient will, body presented.
And what is the will of God like? It is good, it’s acceptable, it’s perfect. So the renewed mind, the submissive will and the consecrated body go along with the redeemed soul.
O to be poured out as a living sacrifice for the Lord.