Giving your all
Scripture Text: Romans 12:1-2
Introduction: On Friday a 21 yr. old Olympic Athlete died while practicing for his competition. Years of sacrifice and training: gone in an instant. Olympians are extremely focused individuals. They spend a lifetime preparing physically, mentally, and emotionally for something that only takes place every four years, with events where the outcome is decided in just a matter of minutes, or even seconds. They are willing to sacrifice time, sleep, food, friends, and many other things for just the possibility of a gold medal. That’s giving it your all.
Now think about this: can we be put in the same category? Are we equally willing to give our all for the cause of Christ? Total surrender is the only response that makes sense in light of the mercy that God has shown to us.
I. A Living Sacrifice – verse 1
After spending 11 chapters describing man’s rebellion against God and the extent that God went to in order to offer us salvation Paul now turns his attention to our response. The word translated “Urge” (NIV) and “Beseech” (NKJV) carries with it the idea of a companion, or mentor who comes along side of you in order to offer encouragement/correction. The encouragement that he offers is that we should consider God’s mercy and respond to it with our life. In other words be a living sacrifice.
A. Because of God’s mercy to us
Paul says, “Therefore, I urge you, in view of God’s mercy…” Take just a moment and think about God’s mercy to you? Only two chapters into Genesis mankind was already in rebellion against God, and we still rebel against Him today. He could have pronounced judgment on us then and erased us from existence and he would have been right.
Instead of giving us judgment, though, he spared us. Instead of giving us what we deserved He took our punishment on Himself. That is mercy. Where justice says, “There is a price that has to be paid” mercy says, “I’ll forgive.” Where God’s Holiness demanded judgment on sin - “For the wages of sin is death…” His love satisfied sin’s price through the blood of His Son, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
In His book, Experiencing God's Forgiveness, Luis Palau describes mercy with this story:
A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death.
"But I don't ask for justice," the mother explained. "I plead for mercy."
"But your son does not deserve mercy," Napoleon replied.
"Sir," the woman cried, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for."
"Well, then," the emperor said, "I will have mercy." And he spared the woman's son.
Paul is encouraging his readers to consider God’s great mercy in sparing us and in light of that mercy to respond with sacrifice. There is a sacrifice that he says is, “holy and pleasing to God.” One that He will accept, one that He desires: a sacrifice that is the only “reasonable” (NKJV) response to the grace that has been extended to us.
What kind of sacrifice? What does the God who has everything in the universe at His disposal want from us?
B. Offer your Body
Paul says that we should offer our bodies to God as a sacrifice. In other words He doesn’t want what we have, He wants us. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross paid the penalty for our sin and therefore purchased us for God. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1st Cor. 6:19b-20) The sacrifice that pleases Him the most is when we give ourselves to Him, but He doesn’t want just part of us – it’s a total sacrifice that He desires.
1 It’s a total sacrifice
In the OT when a sacrifice was offered it was totally used up, excluding the parts that were not offered - the portion given to the priests etc., excluding that the fire consumed it all. (Lev. 1-7) In the same way God wants us to be totally consumed for Him. That means that He wants all that we have.
It’s not enough that we give Him control over some things but hold others back for ourselves. He wants us to surrender our finances, our family, our temper, and our time – everything. Putting in our time on Sunday morning does not make up for living the way we want to the rest of the week.
You mean I can give God my time at work/school? Yes, by giving an honest day’s work, by acting with integrity, and by keeping your testimony intact.
What if you don’t work during the day? You can still act with integrity in the things you do. You can devote time to prayer. Really more than what you do it’s about your attitude while you do it. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” 1st Cor. 10:31
He also wants our home life. Think about these verses from Ephesians 5. “Husbands, love you wives, just as Christ loved the church…” “Children, obey your parents in the Lord…” “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Our homes should reflect and exalt God, just in the daily things that we do. Will we fail in these areas? Yes. But then we can seek forgiveness and move on, dedicating ourselves to God’s glory again.
Our response to God’s mercy should be to surrender to Him every aspect of our lives. Anything less than a total sacrifice is not enough. God wants all of you, and me.
2 It’s a living sacrifice
In contrast to the OT sacrifice we now offer God a living sacrifice. In the past the sacrifice called for death, but now it calls for life. Lev. 1 describes the process of making a Burnt Offering. The one who sinned was to bring a male from his herd, one that was without any defect. He placed his hands on it so that it could be accepted in his place, and then He had to kill it.
The animal’s death was a temporary substitute for the man’s sin. It also illustrated that there is a price that has to be paid for sin, death and shed blood, and it pointed to the future, perfect, once for all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
That was the Old Testament sacrifice.
The sacrifice we offer God now, though, is a life surrendered to Him. Meaning, a life under His power and influence. Instead of taking a life we now offer Him our lives. (Eph. 5:18) Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit.”
God’s Holy Spirit within us should change us in the same way that wine changes the way a person talks, acts, and thinks. When I was growing up there were two uncles on my mother’s side of the family that I did not like to be around because of their drinking. When they were sober they were good, hard working men, but the problem was that they weren’t sober very often. The alcohol within them changed the way they thought and acted, it controlled them.
God’s presence, when we yield to Him, will impact us in the same way, but for the positive. It impacts the way that we think and act so that we are more like him. Being filled with the Spirit will control the way we treat our children, the way we love our spouses, and the way we work for our bosses and help us to be living sacrifices.
So, how do you in a practical way offer yourself as a living sacrifice? Simply live your life moment by moment for Him. There was a time a couple of years ago that I had to be reminded of that. I had just arrived at Basic Training for the Army, and I was overwhelmed by the responsibility that I felt for sharing my faith with all the lost soldiers who were in my platoon. It just seemed too much for one person to be able to do. So, I wrote home to my pastor seeking advice. He simply said, “just relax and let God shine through you. Work hard, do your job, and let Jesus live in you.”
And so I did. It wasn’t perfect, but I did my job as best as I could and I tried to encourage the guys around me. Within a matter of weeks I began to see results and before I knew it I was sharing my faith with soldiers almost daily and at their request. It wasn’t because of anything that I did, but God worked through my living sacrifice to reach those guys.
It also looks like my friend Gladys seeing a need and acting. She found out a neighbor was in the hospital and went to visit and encourage. It’s my friend Paul going to pray with a neighbor when their child was sick. Its you working to provided for your family and also giving his time to serve others. It’s simply being in a place where we give God control of the moments of our lives so that He can use the gifts that He has given us to impact the lives of others.
The result of total sacrifice to God is a mind that is totally transformed.
II. A Transformed Mind – verse 2a
At the moment our lives begin our minds start to develop within the grip of sin. The effects of the fall squeeze our beliefs and thoughts into the mold set by the rest of the world. It’s a mold that is opposed to the things of God; a mold that seeks self above all else. At the moment of salvation that begins to change.
Paul’s encouragement continues with the words, “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world.” The picture in the original Greek is that of our minds being pressed into the mold, or shape of the world around us. Every day we are bombarded by messages that press on us the world’s view of things. Views that champion abortion, that say that cheating on your spouse or on a test is ok, that say lying a little to get ahead isn’t a big deal.
Instead, Paul says to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The Greek word used here is the same word that we get our English word metamorphoses from. It’s a total transformation. The difference between our mind and that of the world should be as vast as the difference between a butterfly and caterpillar, or a frog and a tadpole. The caterpillar goes to sleep bound to the earth, but wakes with the ability to soar through the sky, and gradually the tadpole changes from swimming in the water and breathing through gills to leaping across the land using his lungs to breathe.
We at one time were bound by a lie, a way of thinking that sucked life out of us, but through God’s word and his Holy Spirit we can soar above the immorality that plagues our world today. Paul put it this way in Col. 3:9-10, “since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator.”
And again in 2nd Cor. 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”
God does make us a new creation at the moment of salvation, but we still have to be discipled. Remember that the Book of Romans was written to the church at Rome. These are Christians that he is talking to. That means that we also have to seek daily to have our minds renewed by God. It’s called discipleship.
Sadly because of a lack of good discipleship many churches are filled with pew sitters who failed to put forth effort to renew their minds with God’s word. They are still toddlers in their faith who chose not to move forward and grow spiritually. As a result we have churches that are ineffective in reaching their community. Instead of teaching others many would rather sit back and be taught, as long as it is entertaining. Watch out if they don’t get their way. You’ll have one giant sized tantrum on your hands.
Hebrews 5:12-14, “In fact though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
It doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to train ourselves in God’s word and allow Him to mature us so that He can use us. We don’t have time for the petty arguments that defeat so many churches: what clothes to wear, what music to sing, how should we decorate; just outside of these doors we have souls that are lost without hope and it is our job to reach them. But that requires maturity, a renewed mind.
Do you open your Bible between Monday and Saturday? Do you spend time thinking about God’s word and how to apply it to your life? Do you pray for others and for God to change you? These are the disciplines that lead to maturity. If you are not practicing them now is the time to start.
God wants all that we have. When we consider the mercy that He has shown us the only logical response is to give ourselves to Him.
III. A Discerned Will – verse 2b
I am often asked, especially by young people, “How do I know God’s will for my life?” Well the secret is found here. When we surrender ourselves to God and we allow Him to renew our minds instead of allowing the world to shape them, we are able to know His will.
It’s not meant to be difficult to find. God wants us to know His will, but when we are shaped by the world instead of by Him we make finding it difficult.
The problem is that there are conflicting wills that we have to discern. We are faced with knowing the difference between our will and His, and even the false will of God put out there by our adversary. Remember he is out there to pull us away from God’s will and he will put things out there for us that are in opposition to what God wants for us.
That is why it requires some maturity to know the difference. But when we daily put God’s word into our minds and seek Him we are able to discern His will and follow it.
Once we submit to His will we are fulfilling Paul’s encouragement to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God and we are most pleasing to Him.
CONCLUSION: How do we respond?
A. Spend some time each day reflecting on the mercy that God has shown you. Let it penetrate your heart so that you live differently.
In a speech to students at Cambridge University David Livingstone said this:
People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay?
That is allowing God’s mercy to impact your life!
B. Surrender your life daily to God. Every day, everything that you and I do should be done for the His glory.
C. Allow His word to transform our minds. That means putting it in our mind every day. When we do the maturity that comes will allow us to know and follow His will for us.