JohnSWilson3 Blog


“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”
October 24, 2009, 3:14 pm
Filed under: L Letter to Romans

In Romans chapter 12 Paul comes to the concluding statement that both summarizes what he has just been writing to the believers in Rome in reference to God’s mercy and now how that relates to how the family of God should now live.

Paul writes an incredible letter that describes the good news of Jesus Christ that is for everyone because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Paul explained that because Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God”! We are now “freed from sin”! So we must “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Because “Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life…so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit….(having our) minds set on what the Spirit desires…(and) led by the Spirit of God…(who also) helps us in our weakness.” Paul explodes then with the statement “If God is for us, who can be against us?”! There is now therefore no distinction for anyone who is in Christ whether Jew or Gentile, “for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” God’s mercy is incredible! That He would find “those who did not seek me; (and) revealed myself to those who did not ask for me”!

Because of God’s great mercy, “in view of God’s mercy” we are “to offer (our) bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” This reminds me of the burnt offerings from the Old Testament which was slaughtered “before the LORD,” its blood drained, then skinned, and disemboweled, “and cut into pieces” with “the pieces, including the head and the fat” arranged “on the burning wood that is on the altar” and burned completely, “an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.” I don’t know about you but the thought of the process of slaughtering is pretty gory and gruesome! But the smell of grilled beef sure smells good though! The crucifixion was not pretty it was gory and gruesome. When we die to ourselves it will be gory and gruesome. It will mess us up! Offering our “bodies as living sacrifices” reminds me of a lot of things. It first reminds me of Jesus statement of denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Him. It seems to speak of what Paul had earlier said that “if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” and “the death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

The body of Christ, “your bodies,” must realize (“be transformed by the renewing of your mind”), that we are dead to sin, but because of being in this body of flesh, we must choose to deny ourselves, to die to ourselves, to carry our crosses, so that Christ can be expressed, or seen through our lives. This is what is “holy and pleasing to God,” this is our “spiritual act of worship.” Dieing to ourselves is not conforming “any longer to the pattern of this world, but (being) transformed by the renewing of (our minds).” It is “then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Having died to ourselves we can hear Christ who lives in us, His still small voice, and through the love of one another, know with full assurance what His “will is.”

Paul explains in one of the great chapters of the New Testament how this applies in living with one another. When the family of God comes together, Christ is in each of us, and He desires to love, speak, and serve through one another to one another. Jesus can’t do this is if we have not died to ourselves. Some things we need to die to as Paul explains: “do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment,” “never be lacking in zeal,” “do not curse,” “do not be proud,” “do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The focus is not supposed to be on us but on Jesus Christ who desires to love us through one another! Jesus has given us Himself, He lives in each of His followers, “in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Jesus desires “prophesying,” “serving,” “teaching,” “encouraging,” “contributing to the needs of others,” “caring,”* and “showing mercy,” His life of love, to be expressed through one another to one another. As Paul mentioned to the Corinthians earlier whatever gift Jesus has given us must be done in love or it is meaningless. Love is given freely and without thought of reward, it is unselfish.

When brothers and sisters come together we speak and serve one another in love using the gifts He gives us to love one another. This won’t be perfect, not everyone will have offered their “bodies as living sacrifices,” we are still being “transformed by the renewing of (the) mind” and are all in process. When self pops up, we still express love in what we say and do. When we are expressing His life it will be love: “love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Paul told the Corinthian believers “When we come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” This is just one description of endless possibilities of brothers and sisters coming together living the life of Christ together, in love, from house to house or wherever they gather!

Could it be possible that brothers and sisters when we come together and share our lives with one another in face-to-face, open, participatory gatherings that this description of sacrificially loving one another could come true?! Only when we “offer (our) bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” Perhaps we really should not have what is called “worship services” and learn to spend more time together, like a family, learning to love one another as Christ loved us, the “spiritual act of worship” of dieing to ourselves. We must decrease if we want Jesus to increase in the body of Christ, after all it is His Body, we “are not our own; (we) were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body,” we “are the body of Christ.”

When Jesus gets to be Head of His Body then He will be expressed in and through His body to one another. True sacrificial love will be manifested! And this love will then be manifested in our lives to others who are not Christians, because “love does no harm to its neighbor” and even the “governing authorities” will see the love of God! How do we show love to “governing authorities”: submitting to them, not rebelling “against what God has instituted,” “do what is right,” “not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” So we should “pay taxes, “revenue,” “respect,” and “honor.” Most importantly “let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law…Love your neighbor as yourself.” We need to “wake up” (and smell the coffee so to speak!).

We must die to ourselves, “offer your bodies as living sacrifices,” “put aside the deeds of darkness (“do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature”) and put on the armor of light,” “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus wants to show Himself through us, but it can only happen when we die to ourselves. Before His crucifixion Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” We truly cannot love one another unless we have died to ourselves, given up our life for our brothers and sisters. Crucifixion must come before resurrection!

Note:
* I take James D.G. Dunn’s view that the word often translated as “leadership” in Romans 12 should be “caring” because of the context of the word. Additionally, Paul’s focus, while he recognized “elders,” those who were more experienced in living an organic church life and functioned as mentors, Paul was adamant that Jesus is the Head of the body, and that the church makes decisions not by one man but by the One Man, the body through consensus. (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol 38B, Romans 9-16)

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