Summary: God calls us to give up all we have in response to his mercy and graceshown to us in Jesus Christ
What is your life worth? I don’t mean what would you give to save your life. I guess most of us would say you can’t put a value on human life and especially on my life. But if you were in a position where you had to put a value on your life how would you do it. For example, what do you think would be an appropriate, a reasonable, response to someone who saved your life? Someone who risked their life perhaps to save yours; or someone who did something that gave you a new lease of life. In some cultures if you save someone’s life they’re expected to become your servant. But what would you do?
You may remember back in 1990, Kerry Packer was playing polo in the Western suburbs of Sydney when he collapsed with a heart attack. His heart stopped beating for something like 6 minutes before the ambulance arrived. But fortunately for Kerry, the ambulance had a heart defibrillator which meant that the paramedics were able to get his heart going again. Well, what do you think would be a reasonable response on Kerry Packer’s part to his life being saved like that? I guess he could have rewarded the Ambulance Officers, not to mention the bystander who kept him alive with CPR while the ambulance was on its way and perhaps he did, but the more significant response and perhaps the most fitting response was that he decided to pay for every ambulance in NSW to be fitted with a defibrillator. He wanted to make sure that anyone else who suffered a heart attack as he had, had the same chance of survival.
Well, today we’re going to be thinking about what might be an appropriate response, not to us being revived after a heart attack, but to us having our hearts renewed so we can live forever.
But first let’s refresh our memories of where we’ve got to so far in Romans. Remember I’ve said a couple of times that when we come across that word "Therefore" we need to stop and go back to see what the therefore is referring to. Well, here it is again. "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God ..." What are these mercies of God that he’s told us about in the first 11 chapters?
Well, he’s begun with the basic plight of all humanity: that is, that all people have suppressed the truth about God and substituted something of their own making. All people are under God’s judgement because they fail to live up to his standards. Yet God in his great love for us has done something to help us. He’s sent his only Son to save us from the punishment we all deserve, to save us from the death that’s the inevitable consequence of people’s rebellion against God and to give us new life. And he’s done it, not because any of us deserve it, but simply because he loves us. In fact we were reminded in ch5, if you remember, that it was while we were his enemies, while we were still in active opposition to his rule, that Jesus came and died for us.
That fact has profound implications for us. First it means that now that we’re reconciled to God we can have confidence that he’ll continue to cleanse us from the sin into which we seem to fall at a regular rate. But it also means that we mustn’t take his great love for granted. And for the Jews it means that if God’s love has been shown to the Gentiles through Jesus’ death on the cross, it’s even more available to them, if they’ll come to God through faith in Jesus Christ.
But the most profound implication is in the practical outworking in our lives as we find it described here in this passage. He says, "I appeal to you by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual (or your reasonable) worship." In other words, if you think about what God has done for you, if you can even begin to comprehend the way, in his mercy, God has brought you new life, it’ll have a deep impact on the way you live from now on. If Kerry Packer could respond to his life being saved, as temporary as that rescue may be, by giving a few hundred thousand dollars worth of medical equipment to the ambulance service, what sort of response should we have when we consider how much God has done for us out of his great mercy?
Well, what sort of response do you think would be reasonable? Giving more money to church? Well, we’ll come to that later in the passage, but that isn’t his conclusion. Loving other people the way God loves? Well, again we’ll come to that, but that isn’t sufficient either. Being nice even to those who wrong us? Well, that would be an appropriate response, but it doesn’t go far enough.