Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.
Reading: Matthew 6:19-34
Text: Romans 12:1&2
Romans 12:1-2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
12 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, [a]acceptable to God, which is your [b]spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this [c]world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may [d]prove what the will of God is, that which is good and [e]acceptable and perfect.
The question we are confronted with now in Romans 12 is what difference does God’s mercy make in your life?
Before answering that question it would be good for us to review the mercy of God as it has been explained by Paul in his letter so far and then consider the changes that God’s mercy does make in our lives
1 God’s mercy reviewed.
Paul wrote therefore I urge you brothers by the mercies of God.
For 11 chapters Paul has been unfolding the mercies of God because that is what the gospel is. It is God’s mercy to undeserving sinners. The first three chapters show that all men are sinful and fall short of God’s glory and that we are justified freely by God’s grace and on the basis of Christ’s obedience and sacrifice. Works cannot save but faith does. According to Romans 4 Abraham believed and his faith was credited to him as righteousness. In chapter five Paul show clearly how salvation is a free gift with phrases like “Christ died for the ungodly” and “and while we were still sinner Christ died for us In chapter 7 Paul illustrates the fact that salvation is a gift of God by his own example he confesses his own ongoing struggle with sin saying things like “The good that I wish to do I do not do but I do the evil that I do not want to do” .. and “O wretched man that I am who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In chapter 8 Paul introduces the doctrine of predestination. It is because of predestination that all the other processes necessary for one to become a Christians have happened such as regeneration and faith and sanctification and so on with the result that according to Romans 8, nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love. In chapters 9-11 Paul uses the word mercy several times. A key verse there is, “So then it doesn’t depend on the man who wills but on God who shows mercy” So we conclude that the only reason we can call ourselves Christians is because of God’s mercy. By nature we are like lumps of clay in the potters hands. God is the potter and he makes of us what pleases him. Some he forms as vessels of wrath prepared for destruction and others as vessels of mercy.
Paul concludes the entire first 11 chapters with a statement on God’s mercy saying because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy for God has shut up all in disobedience that he might show mercy to all.
Are you longstanding founding members of the church? This is on account of the mercy of God. Are you here as a young baptised member of this church? That too is because of the mercy of God. Are you growing in the knowledge of God’s word and in faith in Christ? This is only because of the mercy of God. Are you surrounded by people who love you and will go the extra mile for you? It’s entirely down to the mercy of God. Do you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raise him from the dead? Then you are reconciled to God and have eternal life and that is down to the mercy of God.
2. However that is not the end of the matter. God’s mercy does something to us.
It becomes the motivation for your devotion to God. Paul says, “I urge you brethren by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God which is your spiritual act of worship.” Paul realises that there needs to be an appropriate response to God’s mercy and in a word the response is gratitude which is displayed in the way you use your body and mind.
We’ll think about the body first. Paul writes
Paul’s use of the word sacrifice has its origins in the OT sacrificial system where by the Israelites offered bulls and lambs and goats as sacrifices. Since Christ that is no longer necessary for Christ’s sacrifice for sin was perfect, sufficient and of infinite value and therefore his was the end of any sacrifice necessary for the atonement of sin. His was a once for all sacrifice for sin.
However there is now another New Testament sacrificial system, only it’s not for the atonement of sin and it has nothing to do with livestock rather it’s that God is now asking us to sacrifice ourselves as living and holy offerings to God.
This is what it means to be a royal priesthood according to 1 Peter 2:9. In the OT the priest would make an offering for sin. In the Gospel Jesus Christ offers himself as a blood sacrifice of all our sin once-for-all. In the New Testament all believers as a royal priesthood offer their lives as spiritual sacrifice, not for sin but as a service to God out of gratitude.
This sacrifice we offer isn’t just something we offer to God is worship on Sundays but it is a sacrifice we offer to God in our home life at work and in the marketplaces. It is the presentation of our bodies to God. Why does Paul put it that way? Why does he say “present your bodies”? Well one reason is that some of his Gentile readers in Rome used to have a view of the body as of less importance than the soul or even as the followers of Plato thought that the body was some kind of prison for the soul.
Some Christians can even think that way today that the body is not as important as the soul and that that we give out hearts to God but not our bodies.
Well Paul says that the presentation of our bodies is our spiritual act of worship therefore worship must be both inward and spiritual as well as outward and physical. Worship is also to be seen in acts of service for God and Paul is quite plain about it throughout his letter. In the chapters 3:13 and following Paul spells out what misdeeds of the body are; such as tongues which practice deceit, lips which spread poison, mouths which swear and curse eyes which look away from God. Further back in chapter 1 Paul wrote about those who dishonoured their bodies by committing indecent and unnatural acts.
So for the Christians to present his body as a sacrifice and a spiritual act of worship means to put to death all such misdeeds of the body and instead present our bodies as instruments of righteousness. And the way this will look is that we will use our tongues to speak the truth and build one another up; to say things that heal relationships rather than strain and damage them. We will use our feet to walk in God’s ways, use our hands in honest labour in order that we may have something to share with those in need or the contribute to a worthy cause, to clean and cook, type and mend, to use our ears to listen politely and to use our eyes to look at whatever we might do for the Lord.
This is our spiritual act of worship; the presentation of our bodies to God, and not just as church on Sundays but every day of the week.
The second aspect of responding to God’s mercy is in the way we use our minds. Paul writes “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds that you may prove what the will of God is that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
One side of this is not to be conformed to the world. This is an abiding principle for God’s people in every age. In Leviticus 18:3 God said to Moses, (who was to pass this on to the people), “You must not do as they do in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws.” Another example is found on in the Sermon on the Mount, Surrounded by the false devotion of the Scribes and Pharisees Jesus said “Do not be like them.” So here too Paul uses the same summons to readers of his letter to Rome not to be conformed to the prevailing culture of the day.
We are by nature conformists. We feel the peer pressure to look dress acts even think as other around us do and like the things others like which it comes to films music fashion, and customs of the day. In some ways it’s unavoidable. I can’t imagine being able to doing my job without an up-to-date computer and a good internet connection. But may I conform to the world by using the device to live stream the latest films on offer, filled with violence, bad language, blasphemy and infidelity as they so often are? Or should I wile away hours and hours playing computer games? Would that kind of activity be an act of service to God?
When it comes to the music you listen to does it conform more to the world or is it something which is pleasing to God? Many of the popular love songs have lyrics which are about romance and passion and broken relationships. These tunes and lyrics can play on the emotions of those who listen to them which in turn can, in some cases, have the effect of the habitual listener identifying with not just that genre of music but also the fleeting lifestyles the lyrics present as though that’s what life is all about that’s the good life.
And then there is the matter of what is politically correct. For example, these day’s its politically correct to regard all religions alike or ignore the fundamentally different god given roles for men and women. There is also the homosexual thing. Everyone knows its unnatural and a distortion of God’s design and yet it’s almost a crime to say so nowadays according to the left wing PC brigade.
Well Paul says we are not to conform to popular opinion or the customs of the world if these are not pleasing to God and broken relationships, homosexuality and idolatry or syncretism are clearly not.
Instead we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds The word transformed in the Greek is metamorphusthe, which is where we get the word metamorphosis from, the kind of thing that happens when a caterpillar enters the chrysalis stage and is gradually transformed into a butterfly.
We can also think of the transfiguration of Jesus recorded in Mark 9 when his clothing and skin became bright and translucent.
This is the kind of transformation which must overcome the Christian mind. It’s a transformation of our thoughts away from the standards of the world to conform more and more to the Lord Jesus. Out of darkness of sin in to the light of righteousness. Paul uses the same word metamorphosis in 2 Corinthians 3:18 where it says this; “we, who with unveiled faces, see as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory just as from the Lord the Spirit.”
This tells us that the renewing of the mind is the work of the Holy Spirit who progressively sanctifies us. However we are to cooperate with the Spirit because Paul urges readers to “be transformed by the renewing of the mind.” So there are two things going on. The Holy Spirits work in calling and regenerating the elect and the fact that we are to cooperate with His work.
So whatever we are thinking about , be it the origins of life, the purpose of our lives, how to respond to evil, ambition, sex, money, community and religion we need to see all these from God’s perspective. We’re urged to present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God. And we are urged to train our minds so that we think God’s own thoughts after him.
And this is important says Paul so that we can prove what the will of God is; that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
What is God’s will is when it comes to how you live your lives in every detail, your marriage family leisure life, where you will live even what clothing buy off the rack in the store?
Well we need to study the word so that we can think God’s thoughts after him. There is really no other way of knowing the will of God. We simply have to learn from it. You have to know what God loves and what he hates; what God says is good and what He says is bad. It’s no good wrestling within yourself whether or not something is right or wrong. Our consciences aren’t infallible, God’s word is.
So if you want to live a godly life then there is no substitute to Bible study and digging deep in the word in order to understand the Will of god.
And so in conclusion this is how we are urged to respond properly to God’s mercy. We dedicate ourselves to God. That involves two things; a) the sacrifice of our bodies by using our hands, feet, mouth, eyes and ears to glorify God. b) Then it also involves the sacrifice of our minds. Not in the sense that we vacate our intellect but that we submit our minds to God to learn from him so that with our thinking as well as our doing we honour our creator and redeemer.