This is the first of two messages taken from Romans chapter 12. It’s a “conclusion” chapter, in that it brings us to a “What do we do now?” moment after eleven chapters that explain what God has done for us. In this short section of God’s Word we find a call to radical commitment that just has to be answered!
Before we get fully into the message for today, I’ll tell you a story from my recent trip to China that connects with Romans 12. If you know me, you know that it is my habit to always carry a pocket knife. My grandfather drilled it into me that I always needed to have it with me and with all my experiences in life a pocket knife has been my favorite tool. So I brought my favorite pocket knife to China. I carefully packed it in our checked luggage so that there would be no problem taking it there. I pulled it out and popped it in my backpack once we settled in. And I used it often, but kept it in my backpack. We went to all kinds of places, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall. I had it everywhere. We took the long, overnight train through the country from Beijing in the north to the city of Wuzhou in the south. I had my pocket knife as a resource the whole time. We met some kids from Inner Mongolia on the train, soccer players heading south for a month of training. I sliced open an apple for them. And then a couple of days later we got in the queue for the new bullet train to take us to another major city. Guess what happened. The police pulled me over. They rummaged through my backpack, spotted my precious pocketknife, with the custom made lanyard I had lovingly made and installed on it. And they took it. “No, you can’t take this on the train.” I said, “But it’s just a small one.” Finally, when the answer was a complete “no” and we weren’t coming back at the end of the day to reclaim it, I said to the policeman, “Here, it’s a gift.” And then I walked away. It was like I had left my heart there at the security table. Our Chinese friends were a little mystified by my grief, but it was more than understandable. I had left my friend, never to be reunited. It became a sacrifice as a part of the trip.
When we are on an important assignment it demands sacrifice. There are greater priorities involved, even greater than what we’ve held dear before. And it makes sense in the light of the importance of the assignment.
Romans 12.1-5 says:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
If you’ve ever read the Book of Romans, you know that Paul lays out the Good News of new life in God in the previous 11 chapters. It’s carefully laid out so that you would say at the end of that discussion what we read in Chapter 11.33-36
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?”
35 “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?”
36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
Woohoo, clap and cheer at what God has done!
But wait, there’s a proper response to what God has done in making a way for everyone to have new life with God.
When I played soccer in high school, the coach pulled me aside from time to time during the game and focused me on some aspect of the game. Watch that guy. Stay on his inside. Keep your passes quick and tight.
Romans 12 begins just like that.
I beseech you therefore brethren…
To beseech here literally means to pull someone aside for exhortation, instruction or warning. To singly put your arm around someone’s shoulder, like a coach or a father, and speak important words of direction.
To you as a God follower or a God seeker (brethren).
Because of the mercies of God, the very things that we’ve been talking about in the previous chapters and that you’ve experienced personally as a God follower,
Present, stand by as in volunteering for service, your bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which, in light of everything He has done, is only reasonable. What you do for Him, what you sacrifice and set aside for Him is indicative of how important you realize what He has done for you.
Did you ever see the movie, Count of Monte Cristo? In the movie there’s a scene where the main character, Edmond Dantes, escapes from prison, swims away over the water and is washed ashore, only to encounter a band of pirates. The captain of the pirates makes Edmond participate in a knife fight to the death with another pirate, Jacopo. Edmond wins the fight, but spares Jacopo’s life. Jacopo, a few minutes later, swears his service to Edmond for life in light of what he has done. Because of the mercy he’s received it was only reasonable.
So how does this reasonable surrender to God as a sacrifice look?
Have you really appreciated what God has done for you?
Here’s the test. You can know if you do by whether or not you have made yourself a sacrifice. A sacrifice has a no turning back commitment point that involves every part of you. God can’t be a part of your life. Your whole life is committed to God if you correctly appreciate what He’s done and is doing for you.
Have you been conforming to the majority opinion, the world, as to your values, actions and priorities? Are you a student of God’s will and are you acting out His ways of living, reaching to lost people?
Break your alabaster box. Sow your seed in His fields. Actively follow His will. It’s your reasonable response to put yourself at His disposal.