Summary: We are not saved by works but this does mean there is no place for good works. Those saved by grace and justified by faith should do everything they can for the extension of the kingom of God and should, with the help of the Holy Spirit 'kill' those thing
Romans 12: 1-2
SERMON - Living sacrifices
We know what it means to be alive and to live;
what does ‘sacrifice’ mean?
My dictionary defines a sacrifice as ‘a surrender of something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable’; and as a ‘ritual’; ‘a loss entailed’; ‘a propitiation to appease anger’; and as ‘an offering to obtain favour’.
We can see that most of these have a religious connotation.
People who lived in ancient times believed in lots of gods
such as Mars and Venus, Woden and Thor,
and believed sacrifices had to made to them, to keep them happy.
The Romans sacrificed fruit, the Vikings sacrificed horses,
and the Aztecs sacrificed humans so the sun would go on shining every day.
The word ‘sacrifice’ appears 26 times in the Bible according to one Concordance that I use; 14 in the OT and 12 in the NT.
In Leviticus 19:5 we can read about ‘sacrifice of praise’;
in Psalm 116:17 about ‘sacrifice of thanksgiving’;
and in Psalm 141:2 about ‘the evening sacrifice’.
In Hebrews 10:12 and 26 we read about ‘sacrifice for sins’;
in Hebrews 13:15 about ‘sacrifice of praise’;
and Romans 12:1 about our bodies, our lives, as ‘living sacrifices’
which I want us to look at today.
In Leviticus God told the Jews to sacrifice animals such as bulls
so that their sins would be forgiven,
and in Hebrews 9:22 we find the rule
‘Without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sin’.
Christians believe this is why Jesus allowed himself to be killed on the cross.
He was a sacrifice, a living sacrifice, to take away God’s anger at human sin.
He, the innocent, shed his blood and died
so that we, the guilty,
could be forgiven, and allowed to enter into an eternal relationship with God.
What does God want from us in return?
According to St Paul in our NT reading, He wants everything.
He wants us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to Him,
not to earn His grace and love,
but to show to the world around us that we already possess it.
God does not give us grace in payment for our goodness or works;
if so, many of would qualify for very little.
Grace is just what it sounds like,
a free gift from God to those who do not, could not, deserve it.
But because God’s grace is free,
it does not mean that it didn’t have a price.
Grace was actually the most expensive gift ever given,
for it cost God the life of His only begotten Son,
and it often has a cost for humans too.
Millions of Christians down the centuries have suffered and died for their faith.
The first Christians were Jews
and when they put Jesus before Moses and the Law
they were expelled from the synagogues,
at best; at worst they were put to death as Stephen was in Acts chapter 7.
When Christianity spread through the Roman Empire,
those who refused to put Caesar first were killed by gladiators
or by lions in the arena,
as was, for example, St Valentine on 14th February 270,
during the reign of the Emperor Claudius.
In the years following the Communist Revolution in Russia
and in Cold War Europe,
people behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ who put Christ before Marx and atheism
were often tortured and killed,
and in many Middle Eastern countries today, such as Pakistan,
where fundamentalist Muslims think they are pleasing Allah,
those who put Jesus before Muhammad face death by stoning.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Protestant minister in the 1930’s
and he learned how costly it could be to be a Christian
after Adolf Hitler came to power.
On 23rd July 1933 the Lutheran Church in Germany held its elections
and 70% of the clergy and lay members who were elected to its ruling council were sympathetic to the Nazis.
They called for a special German Christianity
that included as its creed the teachings of Hitler in his book ‘Mein Kampf’.
The official slogan of the German State Church was
‘Ein folk, Ein reich, Ein fuehrer, Ein kirche’:
‘One people, one empire, one leader and one church’.
The minority of pastors and lay people who opposed Hitler,
about 2,000 Christians, formed their own Synod at Barmen in 1934
under the leadership of Martin Niemoller.
This became known as the ‘Confessing Church’
and their official statement included the words
‘We stand against the false teaching that there are areas of our life
in which we belong not to Jesus Christ, but to another lord’.
They were convinced that because Jesus gave his all for us,
we should give our all to him.
Because of his public stand against Hitler,
Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was banned from preaching in 1942,