Summary: This sermon examines what it is that motivates Christians to live the Christian life.
For the past few weeks we have been studying Romans 12:1-2. In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul begins applying the doctrine that he has been teaching for the previous 11 chapters. Now, it is not that he has made no application in the previous 11 chapters; he has. However, as he begins chapter 12 he is, in a sense, saying, “In light of all that I have taught, how should we then live?”
So, let’s carefully examine each phrase in Romans 12:1-2.
Let’s read Romans 12:1-2:
1I 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. 2Do 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. (Romans 12:1-2)
What is it that motivates people to be or do their best?
People are motivated by all kinds of different things.
Some people are motivated by challenge. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, tells of a mill manager whose workers were not producing very much. The owner was named Charles Schwab, and he asked the manager what was wrong.
“I have no idea,” the manager said. “I’ve coaxed the men; I’ve pushed them; I’ve sworn and cussed; I’ve threatened them with damnation and being fired. Nothing works. They just won’t produce.”
“How many heats did your shift make today?” Schwab asked.
Without saying anything else, Schwab picked up a piece of chalk and wrote a big number “6” on the floor. Then he walked away.
When the night shift came in they saw the “6” and asked what it meant.
“The big boss was here today,” someone said. “He asked how many heats the day shift made, and we told him six. He chalked it on the floor.”
The next morning Schwab walked through the mill again. The night shift had rubbed out the “6” and replaced it with an even bigger “7.”
When the day shift reported in they saw the “7.” So the night shift thought they were better than the day shift, did they? They’d show them. They pitched in furiously, and before they had left that evening they had rubbed out the “7” and replaced it with a “10.”
Schwab had increased production 66 percent in just twenty-four hours simply by throwing down a challenge.
Some people are motivated by recognition. Students are sometimes motivated to work harder so that they can be recognized as the best in their class or team. Salesmen are often motivated to work harder because of the recognition they receive for superior performance. Athletes excel because of their desire for recognition.
And some people are motivated by freedom. “Give me liberty, or give me death!” is a famous quotation attributed to Patrick Henry from a speech he made to the Virginia Convention. It was given on March 23, 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, VA, and is credited with having swung the balance in convincing the Virginia House of Burgesses to pass a resolution delivering the Virginia troops to the Revolutionary War. Among the delegates to the convention were future US Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Reportedly, those in attendance, upon hearing the speech, shouted, “To arms! To arms!” And, of course, as you know, over a year later the United States declared its independence from Great Britain, having won its freedom to self-government.
The question I want to answer today, however, is what is it that motivates Christians to live the Christian life? Or, to use Paul’s language in Romans 12:1, what is it that motivates Christians “to present [their] bodies as a living sacrifice. . . to God”?
So, in our lesson today I want to examine:
1. The Motivation to Be a Living Sacrifice,
2. The Definition of Mercy, and
3. The Illustrations of Mercy.
I. The Motivation to Be a Living Sacrifice (12:1b)
First, let’s examine the motivation to be a living sacrifice. Paul said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (12:1b).
Romans 12:1-2 are remarkable verses, which is why I am spending so much time unpacking each phrase of these two verses.
In our first study of these two verses I gave you an overview of the two verses. Then, I started examining theses verses phrase by phrase. First, I examined how these verses link to the previous eleven chapters of Romans. Second, I looked at the concept of “living sacrifice,” and explained that in Christianity we live by dying to self, as strange as that may seem. And third, I examined the nature of a “living sacrifice,” and observed that: (1) it is to be living, (2) it involves giving the various parts of our bodies to God, (3) it must be holy, and (4) if it is these things, then it will be acceptable to God.