Summary: I will never forget what Missionary Bill Lewis told me on my last night in Tanzania in 1963.
MEASURING OUR FAITH
“I beseech (urge) you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable (and spiritual) service.” Romans 12:1
I will never forget what Missionary Bill Lewis told me on my last night in Tanzania in 1963. The national pastor, in whose hut we had been staying while on this particular mission safari, had killed his only pig and had used all the remaining rice in his storage bin to provide our supper that evening. I had told Bill that I could not eat the last food that the pastor had for his family. Bill said, “Kenneth, you have to eat. It would greatly offend all the family if you did not. They consider your stay in their home as a great honor to them. You see, the Christians in East Africa measure their Christianity by the sacrifices they make.” O how that burned in my soul that night…and that fire has never gone out!
I searched my mind and my heart that night and I could not recount a single sacrifice that I had ever really made. And I still cannot until this very day. What service I have rendered in the Lord’s work has more than been repaid by the blessings it brought to my own life. Yet Paul calls for us to present our body as a living sacrifice. Let’s consider what message this stringent request from the Apostle has for us today.
I. PAUL URGES US TO PRESENT “OUR BODIES”. WHY? Jesus said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew.26: 41). Paul declared: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” Romans 7:18 (NASB)
The Holy Spirit of God has sealed our redeemed spirit until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30) and sin cannot penetrate that holy seal. So the challenge does not go to the spirit of a redeemed individual but to the house that the spirit lives in, or to say, our mortal bodies. Paul writes in Romans 7:22-23, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man (our redeemed spirit). But I see another law in my members (the body), warring against the law of my mind (the redeemed spirit), and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (the body).” This is why Paul calls us to present our body, and not our spirit, as a living sacrifice. Paul tells us what prompts us to do this.
II. WHAT PROMPTS US TO DO THIS: “the mercies of God” “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love where with He loved us.” Ephesians 2:4
1. Creative Mercies: “Know that the LORD (YAHWEH), He is God; It is He who hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (Psalm 100:3)
2. Redemptive Mercies: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:7
3. Provisionary Mercies: “Thou, in Thy great compassion, did not for-sake them in the wilderness; the pillar of cloud did not leave them by day, to guide them on their way, nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go. ” Nehemiah 9:19
III. HOW THIS SERVICE IS TO BE MANIFESTED: “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thou-and rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8)
III. WHY SUCH SERVICE IS REASONABLE: To “present your bodies” suggests it is freely given and not coerced. When we consider what He did for us, can we afford to do less than our best for Him?