A. One Sunday after worship services, as the worshipers filed out of the sanctuary they greeted the preacher who stood by the door.
1. As one member shook the minister’s hand, he thanked him for the sermon and said, “Preacher, I would have to say that you are smarter than Einstein.”
2. Beaming with pride, the minister said, “Why, thank you, brother!”
3. But as the week went by, the minister began to think about the man’s compliment.
4. The more he thought, the more he became baffled as to why anyone would deem him smarter than Einstein, so he decided to ask the man the following Sunday.
5. The next Sunday, the preacher asked the church member if he remembered his previous Sunday’s comment about the sermon and the man replied that he did.
6. Then minister asked him: “Exactly what did you mean that I must be smarter than Einstein?”
7. The man replied, “Well, Preacher, they say that Einstein was so smart that only ten people in the entire world could understand him. But you must be smarter than Einstein, because I’m not sure that anyone can understand you.”
8. I am hoping that I am not too difficult to understand, especially as we have plowed through some very deep and complicated theological points that Paul has been making in his letter to the Romans.
B. I am very excited that today’s sermon begins the fourth and final section of Romans.
1. Romans has the well-deserved reputation of being one of the most theological books in the Bible.
2. And as we have seen, the first three sections, comprising 11 chapters of the letter, are deeply theological.
3. In the first section, covering chapters 1-4, Paul revealed why everyone needs the gospel and what the gospel of Christ is.
4. In the second section, covering chapters 5-8, Paul explored some of the aspects of the new life in Christ that comes as the result of the gospel.
5. The third second, covering chapters 9-11, is the most theological of all as Paul explored God’s plan for the salvation of Jews and Gentiles, and how God had not broken His promises to the Jews.
C. As we begin our investigation of this fourth and final section, chapters 12-16, we will notice that it is the most practical of all the sections of the letter.
1. Some people over the years have wondered why Paul would bother with such practical stuff at the end of a letter that was so theological and doctrinal.
2. But such an attitude or question indicates a basic misunderstanding of Paul’s letter to the Romans, and a basic misunderstanding of one of the purposes of theology and doctrine.
3. W.H. Griffith-Thomas explained the importance of Romans 12-16 in this way: “After doctrine comes duty; after revelation, responsibility; after principles, practice.” (Romans, p. 318)
4. In many respects all theology is practical, and all practice, if it is truly Christian, is based in theology – the two go hand in hand.
5. But this is even more the case in the occasional letters of Paul, like the letter to the Romans.
6. Although the practical principles that Paul lays out in chapters 12-16 can apply to many things in our Christian lives, we must first read them and apply them to the challenging situation being faced between Jewish and Gentile Christians in the church at Rome.
D. So, let’s see how and where Paul began this practical section of his letter to the Romans.
1. Romans 12 is one of the best chapters in all of Paul’s letters.
a. You might recall that just 2 years ago, in the Fall of 2017, we spent an entire quarter in our Sunday adult class studying Romans 12.
b. The class was called “True Spirituality: Becoming a Romans 12 Christian.”
2. What we will notice, today, is that Paul begins this section answering the question: How, then, should we respond?
3. In response to all that God has done for our salvation in Christ, how should we react and how should we live?
E. Here is Paul’s initial answer: 1 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
1. Paul wants the Romans, and all of us, to live life “in view of the mercies of God.”
2. Our perspective on God and on our own lives needs to be seen through the lens of God’s grace.
3. What do the mercies of God include?
a. They certainly include all that Paul has covered in the first 11 chapters of Romans.
b. Our sin and our self-will had left us alienated from God and left us doomed to eternal condemnation.
c. But then out of the goodness and grace of God’s heart, He dealt with our sin problem through the death of Jesus on the cross, and now we can be declared righteous in God’s sight through the righteousness of Jesus imparted to us.
d. Through Jesus and His righteousness we are set from slavery to sin, and we are adopted as God’s children and can enjoy victorious and abundant life here on earth, and eternal life and a glorious future in heaven some day.
F. So, with all of that mercy and grace in mind, what should we do and how should we respond?
1. What does God want from us in response to His mercies?
2. God wants us to offer ourselves to Him.
3. Paul urges us to present (or offer) our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.
4. This command to present or offer ourselves to God reminds us of what Paul wrote earlier in the letter, in chapter 6 where Paul used the same verb and idea:
a. “do not offer the parts of your body to sin…but rather offer yourselves to God” (vs. 13).
b. “don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves…” (vs. 16).
c. “just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity…so now offer them in slavery to righteousness and holiness” (vs. 19).
G. Let’s notice first of all that Paul says that we are to offer our bodies.
1. Why is it that Paul said “bodies” rather than offer your “lives?”
2. Perhaps it was to communicate that God wants all of us, including the physical and spiritual aspects of us as persons.
3. Richard Straus wrote that God was saying to us: “I want to take control of it (your body), and use it as an instrument for accomplishing My purposes. I want your eyes to absorb My Word. I want your mouth to speak My praise. I want your hands to help others in need. I want your brain to lay plans that glorify Me.”
4. That reminds me of the sermon series I preached back in 2012 called “Wholly Devoted” where we talked about having wholly devoted minds, hearts, tongues, eyes, ears, hands, feet, and knees.
5. When we offer ourselves to God, we can’t hold anything back it needs to be our all – our whole selves.
H. Another thing we notice is that we are to offer our bodies as “living” sacrifices.
1. As new covenant Christians, we no longer offer “dead” animal sacrifices; rather, we now offer ourselves as “living” sacrifices.
2. Sometimes I think it would be easier to be a dead sacrifice than a living one.
3. At least with a dead sacrifice it is a one-time decision and it is done and over with, but a living sacrifice is on-going, and must be put into practice daily, or minute by minute.
I. In addition to being a living sacrifice, Paul also mentions that the sacrifice of ourselves is to be holy and pleasing to God.
1. Holy means to be set apart to God – separated to Him, belonging to Him.
2. Holy sacrifices are pleasing to God – they bring joy and delight to God’s heart.
3. God takes pleasure in the obedience of His children, just as an earthly parent does the same.
J. Paul completes the first verse with the phrase “this is your true worship.”
1. The NIV calls it “your spiritual act of worship.”
2. The KJV calls it “your reasonable service.”
3. Phillips paraphrase calls it “your intelligent service.”
4. The offering of ourselves to God as a living sacrifice of our entire selves and lives is the only reasonable and logical thing to do in view of who God is and what God has done for us. Amen?
K. This offering of ourselves to God has other demanding and important obligations and Paul lays them out in this chapter and the chapters that follow.
1. Verse 2 speaks to one of those important obligations – the transformation of our lives.
2. Paul tells us what not to do and then he tells us what to do and how to do it.
3. Paul tells us not to be conformed to this age.
a. The NIV says: “do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.”
b. Phillips’ famous paraphrase says: “don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”
c. The old world to which we belonged in our pre-Christian past still wants to exert its influence over us, it continues to entice us to follow its pattern of sinful and ungodly behavior, but we must not allow it to control us.
4. We must experience transformation from our past worldly ways, but how can we do it?
a. Paul says that it takes place by a renewing of our minds.
b. This transformation is like the process of a caterpillar being changed into a butterfly.
c. You don’t change a caterpillar into a butterfly by pasting wings on it, rather the caterpillar experiences a change from the inside out.
d. Our transformation isn’t just a change it outward behavior, it is a change in internal belief, attitudes and commitments that lead to changed behavior and a transformed life.
e. But it starts with our minds, because in the end, we are what we think.
f. If we want to change the way we live, we have to change the way we think.
5. And to change what we think, we must change what we feed into our minds.
a. What are we feeding our minds?
b. What things do we read? What music are we listening to? What do the lyrics say? What movies and TV shows do we watch? Whose advice do we listen to? What do we tell ourselves?
c. All these things affect our thinking.
d. If we feed our mind with the views and values of the world, then we will think and act like the world.
e. But if, on the other hand, we feed our mind with the Word of God and the things of Christ, and we listen to wholesome music, watch wholesome programs, and listen to the advice of godly people, then we will have the mind of God and we will act more like God.
f. Then as we know and do God’s will, we will enjoy the blessings of God in our lives.
6. So, in view of all of God’s mercies, the only reasonable thing for us to do in response is to offer ourselves to God, and in so doing we should be resisting the world and renewing our minds.
L. Today, I want us to cover one more obligation that Paul says we have in view of God’s mercies and that is to serve reasonably and faithfully in the church.
1. Here’s how Paul explained it: 3 For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. 4 Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, 5 in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. 6 According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; 7 if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; 8 if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:3-8)
2. There’s so much amazing stuff packed into these 6 verses, and we don’t have time to go into depth with all of it, but I want us to grasp Paul’s main points.
3. Paul begins by reminding us that we live out our transformed life in community.
4. And central to our community life is a fair and sober estimate of ourselves in line with the Christian faith and the gifts that God has given to each of us.
M. Notice that Paul begins with a reminder about his own fair and sober estimate of himself and the gifts God has given to him.
1. Paul does this by couching his command to them in the grace that has been given to him.
2. This grace given to Paul is a reference to his apostolic call and the authority given to him to share God’s truths with the Romans and with everyone else.
N. Let’s talk for a minute about the honest and accurate estimation that Paul says that each of us should have for ourselves.
1. Paul highlights and speaks against an inflated view of ourselves that we might be prone to.
2. I’m sure Paul was directing that especially toward the pride-filled Gentile Christians in the church at Rome – you will recall how he called them out several times in chapter 11.
3. Paul’s overall desire is for all Christians in Rome, and elsewhere, to have a “renewed mind” that delivers them the self-centeredness typical of worldly thinking that causes us to think either too highly or too lowly of ourselves.
4. A right and realistic assessment of ourselves will keep us from being puffed up in the clouds or dragged down into the mud.
5. True humility is a right and true estimation of ourselves in God’s sight.
6. Pride comes from “super-thinking” about yourself, and dwelling on our own supposed greatness.
7. Pride and self-centeredness can also go to the opposite extreme where a person thinks too little of themselves and is constantly bad-mouthing themselves – usually in an effort to force others to focus on lifting them up.
8. When a person knows who they are in God – a loved and forgiven sinner, with some gifts – then a person doesn’t need to brag or to beg, they can just be themselves.
9. And when a person understands that who they are, and what they are, and what they have, all comes from God, then there is no room for thinking too highly or too lowly of themselves.
10. God distributes His gifts according to His own sovereign will, and if God is the one who gives the gifts, then He is the one who should get all the glory for their use, not us.
O. After clarifying the importance of a right view of ourselves, Paul directs us to have a right view of our place in God’s family, the church, the body of Christ.
1. Paul says the church is like our own physical bodies – they are made up of many different
parts, each with its own function, but they form one body.
2. If the body is going to enjoy good health and function, then all the parts need to do their part.
3. And, no part of the body, can separate itself from the body and hope to survive – Paul expanded on that illustration when he wrote the letter to the Corinthians.
4. What is Paul’s main point? The Christian community at Rome is diverse, made up of Jews and Gentiles, but those diverse parts need each other and need to cooperate with each other.
P. In verses 6 – 8, Paul describes some of the different gifts that individual Christians might have.
1. Paul lists 7 gifts in these verses, but when you add the other gifts that Paul mentions in Ephesians and Corinthians the result is a total of about 19 different spiritual gifts.
2. But I don’t think that Paul is trying to be exhaustive, and the 19 different gifts may just be a sampling or summary of the ways that God empowers and works through Christians.
3. Rather than going into the different kinds of gifts and talking about their use, I just want to summarize some important basic truths about spiritual gifts.
a. First of all, everyone has a spiritual gift or gifts – everyone, therefore has a role to play in the body of Christ.
b. Second, everyone does not have the same gift – there are people who try to teach that everyone must have a certain gift or they are not a real Christian, but that is a false teaching.
c. Third, no one has all the gifts – that would be an amazingly gifted person, indeed.
d. Fourth, all the gifts are to be used to help the body, not just serve the individual who possesses the gift.
e. Finally, all gifts should be employed humbly, with dependence on God’s wisdom and power, in order to bless the church and bring glory to God.
Q. So, what have we learned today? Let’s review…
1. First, we learned that it is important to keep in mind all that God has done for us, and that everything we do for God should be done in response to what God has done for us – we do it out of the deepest gratitude.
a. How well are you grasping and being compelled by the mercies of God toward you?
2. Second, we learned that in response to God’s mercies it is right and reasonable to offer our whole selves to God – including our bodies, souls and spirits – all that we are and have.
a. How well are you offering your whole self to God?
3. Third, we learned that offering ourselves to God is a transformation process that changes us from having the world’s ways of thinking and acting into having God’s ways of thinking and acting.
a. This is not something that happens automatically, but must be done deliberately and consistently over time by the renewing of our minds.
b. How well along are you in being transformed by the renewing of your mind?
c. What kinds of things need to change so you aren’t being squeezed into the world’s mold?
4. Fourth, we learned about how important it is the have a fair and sober estimate of ourselves in line with the Christian faith and the gifts that God has given to each of us.
a. We must not think of ourselves too highly or too lowly, but see ourselves as God sees us.
b. How well are you humbly grasping God’s love for you and how He has gifted you?
5. Fifth, we learned about how important it is for us to be connected to the body of Christ and to be faithful to do our part to make the body function in a healthy and complete way.
a. No Christian can remain faithful and healthy without a connection with the body of Christ.
b. And the body of Christ is harmed and hindered when we are absent and delinquent in our service.
c. How well are you being connected to the body and allowing God to bless the body through the gifts He has given you?
6. May God help us to grow and change in all the ways that will bless us and the body and bring glory to God!
Romans, The NIV Application Commentary, by Douglas Moo
Will You Do Me a Favor?, by Dr. Richard Strauss
Use Those Spiritual Gifts, by Dr. Richard Strauss
Blueprint for a Healthy Church, by Ray Pritchard