What is my response to the gift of eternal life, which is so much more than going to heaven one day? The gift of salvation, sanctification, and life is not something I could ever have attained on my own; it is a gift from God which cannot be repaid, I live my life as a response of gratitude and joy for the gift. We are reading Romans 12 today, but we will begin with the last verses of Romans 11 so that we can understand Paul’s “therefore.” Romans 11:32-36 reads,
For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
There is not a single person who could earn salvation by his own works. This is good news for us, because it means that Jesus could live, die, and resurrect for us; God can show His awesome mercy to every person and give us what we can’t reach ourselves. Everything is from Him, through Him, and to Him. He is awesome! There are no words good enough, great enough, or encompassing enough to describe the wonder of God.
The Message puts verses 33-36 this way,
Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.
Is there anyone around who can explain God?
Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
Anyone who has done him such a huge favor
that God has to ask his advice?
Everything comes from him;
Everything happens through him;
Everything ends up in him.
Always glory! Always praise!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Now, let’s begin Romans 12. Verses 1-2 read,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect
Since God cannot be repaid, and everything is His, it makes sense that our response is to offer our entire lives, physical, spiritual, and mental back to Him; it is His. That is, to live for Him. Colossians 3:12-17 says it like this,
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
We as humans can tend to forget that salvation and sanctification are God’s doing and think of ourselves as the ones doing the ministry, the writing, the singing, the job, the helping, the pew-sitting, or whatever it is we are doing that we profess is for God. But it is all from Him, through Him, and to Him. In other words, He gave us the gifts, abilities, and power, and He will work it so that it is for His will and the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Isaiah 55:11, Romans 8:28). Offering our lives as a living sacrifice means we cannot live life as an island. Loving God with our entirety, Loving Jesus as He loved us, means we must be part of the church, a member of the body of Jesus. Paul used the metaphor of the body several times in His writing. It suggests a unity of the local and worldwide church working together, using our gifts, and doing the work of Jesus. It is one of the reasons that Jesus said we would do His works and even greater works (John 14:12). We are not our own, we belong to Christ and to one another. Verses 3-8 describe a life of thanking God by appreciating our gifts by using them as God intended.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
The more faith one has, the more humble she will be because she knows her life is due to God and she trusts Him with it. Through faith given by God we can submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21) and work together with our various gifts. Offering my life as a sacrifice acceptable to God requires offering my life to the worldwide church, local church, local lost, and world. I will probably not be asked to die but as The Day draws nearer it is a possibility. Laying down my life is more likely to look like cheerfully using my gifts for the edification or building of the Kingdom, the church, and the people. I have to tell you that I personally love using the spiritual gifts God gave me. I don’t know about you, but when I am serving or using my gifts, I feel perfectly content, exactly in the right place, and filled with purpose and joy. If I have been self-focused, self-pitying, depressed, angry etc., serving others bring me back into the joy of God.
Using our gifts, being a functioning part of the body of Christ is meant to be an expression of faith, love, cheerfulness, generosity, and zeal. Offering our lives to God is a joyful endeavor. There is joy in the sacrifice because of the awesome results. God have us this life, we give it back, and He is glorified, made known, and people are encouraged and turn to Him. Do you know that as horrific as Jesus knew His crucifixion would be, He faced it with joy? Hebrews 12:1-4 tells us,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
How much more joy can we have as we serve when we are only doing something which doesn’t require us to die or spill our blood like visiting a sick friend, sharing the love of Jesus with someone, mowing the widow’s lawn, or feeding the hungry? What does it look like to offer yourself as a living sacrifice? Verses 9-18 read,
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
We are saved by faith, not works. Yet, God says we were created for good works (Ephesians 2:10). James wrote that our faith was revealed by our good works (James 2:18) and Jesus said, we would be revealed as His followers by our love for one another (John 13:35). Our Christian walk is one of following Jesus and imitating Him (1 Corinthians 11:1). My mind was blown at church last week when the Pastor, Robert Gordon read Jesus’ description of His ministry, His purpose on earth from Isaiah 61 and then related the description with our own lives? Does my life resemble these verses in Isaiah 61:1-3?
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion--
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
Can Jesus say to me,
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me… Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”? (Matthew 25:34-36 and 40).
Do we love only those who love us? Do we do good only for those who we think deserve it? Thank God that is not His attitude or there would be no gift of salvation. All of us are disobedient and that is a reason He can lavish us with His mercy. In imitating Him, we too ought to be merciful. Verses 19-21 read,
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
It is a sacrifice to be merciful and that sacrifice can be painful. Humility is not easy, it takes strength, faith, and Holy Spirit power. But if we trust God, we know He will fight for us, we only have to be silent (Exodus 14:14).
Is your life a living sacrifice, is your body the Temple of God or the Church of [insert your name]? All the works listed here will not save you and cannot make God love you more. That is such great news! God loves you so much, He did all the work so that we could be in a relationship with Him. He doesn’t want your service as a ritual or duty. Those good works are a natural expression of our joy and gratitude for the awesome gift of eternal life. They are how we live this eternal and abundant life He has gifted us.