Those who know me know that my passion in life is evangelism and mission. Earlier this week a question was asked at our evangelism team meeting, “Why do we not affect those outside of our Church?” and the person immediately answered his own question “because our lives do not reflect Christ!”
Tremendous truth in that.
I’ve long believed that the greatest sermon that can be preached will be preached by ordinary people living changed lives. This passage from Romans shows us that.
- Verse 1 Paul urges readers “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” It’s not about what other people think but its all about what God thinks. Pleasing Him is what counts and giving him everything we can, time, talents, gifts, finance, our whole lives therefore becomes a spiritual worship. But to do so it involves sacrifice. So Paul says we have to present our bodies, all that we are and all that we have to God; God first, us second. Then it becomes a spiritual worship. The great Christian theologian, Thomas A Kempis, upon which much of our current westernised Christianity is based once said “A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover as the love of the giver ”
- But there must be more than this. Truly what are these sacrifices? They have to be more than simply time, energy, finance etc. No, I think that Paul is going much deeper.
- Lets look at the adjectives. Firstly LIVING. We offer our bodies because of what Christ has done for us. Corrie Ten Boom (80 yrs old) preaching in Copenhagen on these verses. Two young ladies invited her back to lunch; unfortunately lived on 10th floor and no lift. (Not what you want at 80 yrs.) She struggled up to 5th floor and collapsed into a chair, ready to give up. God whispered it was important to carry on. When she arrived on 10th floor met the parents of one of the young ladies. Neither a Christian but were interested in the Gospel. Corrie led them to faith in Christ. All because she reluctantly sacrificed her own body to go where God led her, despite the cost.
- HOLY The covenant service in the Methodist Church speaks of how some areas of discipleship are attractive and others costly. “Christ has many services to be done: some are easy, others are difficult: some bring honour, others bring reproach; some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests, others are contrary to both; in some we may please Christ and please ourselves, in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves. Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us.” D.L.Moody once said “A holy life will make the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns, they just shine.”
- ACCEPTABLE To whom are we to be acceptable? In a marriage our first desire must be to please the other person, the one we profess to love. So it is with God also. King David in the O.T. wanted to buy some land from a subject and use it for worship. The owner says he can have it free of charge, but David insists on paying. “Why?” “I will not give to the Lord that which has cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24). Discipleship and giving must cost us something to be genuine. It may be financial, material, emotional, psychological, and even social. We show our love to God because of his love for us, but it will cost us, or it should. Vs 2 goes even further as it speaks of transformation. J.B. Phillips translation says “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould”. Message Bible “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your own culture that you fit into it without even thinking” Street Bible says “Don’t get moulded by what the adverts say you should have/should do/should be”
- This is what it amounts to. We must desire to be changed. Its no good hearing this sermon and going home and doing nothing about it, other than saying “What a good time we had in Church” No, if we’re going to have an effect upon society then we need to desire to be changed into what God wants of us. But it’s hard isn’t it not to conform to the world?
- Leslie Newbiggin once observed that just as a goldfish is not consciously aware of the water in which it swims, so we are often unconscious of the culture we live in and its values. How easily have we accepted things under the banner of ‘tolerance’. Whilst I don’t want a return to the puritanical, holier-than-Thou, Christian life there are times when we have become too tolerant. Not about being judgemental on others but about examining our own lives.
- Note, Paul talks of renewing of our minds; i.e. from within. Spiritual transformation involves a battle for the mind, because what we think affects our attitudes and actions. Not about intellectualism, but about changing our mind-set.
- We begin with Bible reading. Several years ago the Bible Society launched BibleFresh , a year of finding ways to get the Bible out into the public domain. We need to be people of scripture, sharing it with each other, building each other up with it, encouraging each other. There is no substitute for sharing the Bible in a group study. God speaks through people and through his scripture.
- Not enough to read the Bible and discuss it. Many in Church know their Bibles better than me, but there are also many who won’t allow scripture to shape them. Biblical authors didn’t write their books just to be read or heard, but designed them to generate action. Bible isn’t just to be read, its to be done.
- Famous preacher once said “Never finish your sermon without telling your congregation what you want them to do about it.” Perhaps we ought to re-word that to say “Never finish your Bible reading without deciding what you’re going to do about it!”
- CONCLUSION Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it.My prayer is that we will all be compelled by the Holy Spirit into changing our lives so that they conform to Gods Kingdom, and so that others may see our Lord Jesus Christ in us and that they too may offer their lives as a living sacrifice.
- Issac Newton, First Law of Motion.