ďSacrificed Bodies & Renewed Minds, part 1Ē†††††††††††††††††††† September 23, 2012

Romans 12:1-2

 

SI:This fall and winter weíre looking in detail at one chapter in the Bibleó

†† Romans 12.As I told you last week, I chose this chapter because of

†† conversations, interests of several

 

Over the past months several members have talked to me about their burden

†† to be more generous, hospitable, and compassionateó

†† that whole area of Christian service that we usually refer to as mercy ministry.

Meeting the needs of people, particularly physical needs, in the name of Christ.

†† What does the Lord call us to do, and how are we to do it?

Several members have also told me they want to know more about spiritual gifts.

†† What they are and how they can be used in the church.

 

So as I began to mull over those concerns and burdens, I found myself coming back

†† again and again to Romans 12.This is a great passage on mercy and gifts.

†† Iím excited about how the Holy Spirit is going to teach us and guide us.

†† I know I need to be stretched and challenged in these areas.

But Iím nervous about the preaching part.

†† We just finished Psalms.To me, Psalms are the easiest part of Bible to preach.

†† I love the way each Psalm encapsulates a theme.I love the poetic imagery.

When you study the Psalms, you take them in one gulpóthe way to read a poem.

 

But Romans is different literature.Theological treatise by greatest apostolic mind.

†† You canít take it in a gulp.Have to go line by line.Sometimes word by word.

Thereís a history of preaching Romans point by point, line by line, examining

†† Paulís careful argument.Martyn Lloyd-Jones took 25 years to preach Romans.

We wonít go at that slow of a pace, but we will take our time,

†† and try to uncover all that the Lord has for us in this amazing chapter.

 

 


 

INTRO:Last October I was in India teaching two week-long seminars

†† on the topic of Christian worship.

One of the groups I taught was 35 pastors, many of whom were from animist

†† backgrounds. Their ancestors and their relatives and villages worshipped

†† many gods, goddesses, and spirits with many rituals and superstitions.

 

We were studying the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, looking at Leviticus.

†† And I pointed out that in all of the Old Testament animal sacrifices,

†† the same order was followed.The worshipper would bring an animaló

†† a bull, sheep, goat, or pigeonóand then he would put his hands on the animal.

And then, after he did that, the priest would kill the animal and proceed with the

†† rest of the ceremony.That was always the order.It was never reversed.

First, you put your hands on the animal, then it was slaughtered by the priest.

†† And I asked:Why that order?What did it signify?

†† It signified substitution.

Laying on hands signified transfer of guilt from the worshipper to the animal.

†† And then it was killed in his place as his substitute.

 

That order of sacrifice pointed forward to Jesus Christ and his great work of

†† substitution on the cross.Our guilt was transferred to the Lamb of God,

†† then he was slaughtered in our place.

So, I said, the Old Testament sacrifices were all about Godís graceó

†† His provision of forgiveness through a substitute.

And that means the motivation for bringing a sacrifice to the Temple was not to get

†† Godís favor, it was simply gratitude for all that the Lord would do through Christ.

 

Well when I said that, and after my translator had translated itó

†† the room erupted into very animated conversation.The men started talking

†† very loudly and making gestures, as if they were demonstrating something.Others were nodding and clearing agreeing with what was being said.

†† So I asked the translator what all this was about.

 

He said the men love this point about the order of biblical sacrifices.

Because in the religion of their villages there are animal sacrificesó

†† but they are performed in the opposite order.

The animal is killed first, and then the worshipper comes and puts his hands on it.

†† So I asked, why is that significant?He said, Donít you see?

Itís a way of saying to the gods, this animal Iíve just killed is my gift to you.

†† Now you have to bless me.You owe me blessings because Iíve done this for you.

The order of biblical sacrifice is Godís grace.

†† We give our offerings to God out of gratitude for all he has done for us.

The order of sacrifice in our native religion is not grace but works.

†† Itís giving to the gods in order to get their favor.

 

What a profound observation about sacrifice, and a perfect set up for these verses.

Paul says that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God.

†† Weíre going to get into what that meansó

†† but even at first reading it sounds like pretty serious business.

Why are you supposed to give your body to God in that way?

†† Is it to gain Godís favor?Is it to get into his good graces or stay in them?

†† Is it the path to getting his blessings?

Is it so you can say:Iíve given myself to you, God, now you owe me?

 

No, our motive for all we do as believers is gratitude for Godís mercies in Christ.

Remember our study last week.

†† The significance of this word ďtherefore.Ē

†† ďTherefore, brothers, in view of Godís mercy . . .ĒPaul is making an argument.

Heís referring to all heís written in the letter so far,

†† which is a magnificent presentation of the Gospel of grace, mercies of God.

 

Eleven glorious chapters of the most profound theological teaching in Bible.

†† The Father choosing you.The Son dying for you.Holy Spirit regenerating you.

You are predestined, called, justified, glorified.No condemnation.

†† All things working for good, nothing can separate you from the love of God.

And then, only then, does God say to you:Therefore, this is how you are to live.

 

So Paul is making a shift chapter 12.Heís getting practical.

†† This is how you are to live as a Christian because of what Jesus has done.

These are the offerings of gratitude, these are the sacrifices God wants you to bring.

†† He has some very specific instructions.

 

But before he gets to the specifics, Paul describes the Christian life broadly.

†† He says that living for God, responding in gratitude to Godís mercies means

†† offering your body as a living sacrifice and being transformed by the renewing

†† of your mind.Sacrificing your body, renewing your mind.

Those go together, but weíre going to split them up for our study this Sunday

†† and next.This morning letís focus on offering bodies as living sacrifices

†† under three headings.Iíll give them to you as we go.

MP#1The importance of your body to God

When Paul tells us to offer our bodies to God as living sacrifices,

†† at first blush he seems to simply be saying, offer yourself to God.

†† Give your whole life to God.Give yourself to the Lord completely.

But there is more going on than that.††

†† Paul is deliberately drawing attention to your actual body,

†† to the physical, flesh and blood aspect of your personhood.

Your actual hand, feet, mouth, eyes.Your body is precious to Godó

†† and the fullness of your salvation is inseparable from your body.

 

When you look at Paulís comments about the body, not just in Romans,

†† but in many of his letters, you quickly realize that Paul was pushing back

†† against a culture that sounds very familiar to us.

First century Greco-Roman society was pornifiedójust like our own.

†† There was an idolatry of bodily form, a sexualizing of the body,

†† a divorcing of personhood from the body so that people were seen as objects,

†† and Godís image denigrated.

Greek philosophy separated the body from the soul.

†† That led some people to extreme asceticism, where the body was denied.

But it lead more commonly to the idea that I can do anything with my body and it

†† wonít have any negative effect on my soul.That provided an excuse for

†† participating in pervasive sexual immorality and violent entertainment of culture.

 

Against all of that, Paul proclaimed a high view of the body.

In order to save us, the Son of God took on the flesh of a human body.

He ministered and proclaimed the good news through the means of his body.

†† He offered his body on the cross as a sacrifice for our sin.

†† God raised us that body in victory over sin and death.

 

The Son of God has linked himself to us for all eternity as an embodied man.

†† He ascended into heaven and assumed his place at the Fatherís right hand

†† in glorified human flesh.

One day God will raise our bodies, our self-same bodies, new and glorious,

†† like the glorified body of Lord Jesus.And we will live embodied for all eternity.

So itís clear that your body is incredibly important to God.

†† That means what you do with your body matters to him.

 

Listen to some of Paulís comment s about the body elsewhere in Romans,

†† and in some of his other letters:

Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

 

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?You are not your own; you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your body.

 

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

 

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

 

So is it with the resurrection of the dead.What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

 

He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

 

Your body is precious to God.He made it, heís saving it.

†† How can you do anything but offer it to him as a living sacrifice.

I read you that verse from 1 Corinthians where Paul compares the athleteís

†† discipline of his body with the Christian life.Thatís another view of sacrifice.

Imagine an aspiring college football player who said:Iím totally committed.

†† I want to represent my school on the gridiron.I want to help win championship.

But Iím not going to transport my body many miles for those away games.

†† Iím not going to deny my body the eating and sleeping habits I enjoy.

†† Iím not going to make my body get up early and go to the gym for hours.

Iím not going to ignore the many pains in my body and subjugate them to a coachís

†† routine.Donít misunderstand me, Iím in, Iím committed 100% up here, my heart

†† is totally in the game, Iím a team player, but leave my body out of it.

Thatís absurd.If youíre in at all, then youíre in body and soul.

†† And the Christian life is no different.Your body is precious to God.

†† He made it.Jesus died for it.Youíll be living in it for eternity.Offer it to him.

MP#2The influence of your body on your soul

Because God has made us psycho-physical beings, a tangle of soul and bodyó

†† the things you do with your body, the attitude of your body,

†† even the posture of your body affects your soul.

Parents know this very well.We know how body and soul interact in behavior.

When my children were little, there were a few, very rare occasions when I had to

†† spank them.I very quickly learned the importance of their bodily response.

If they toughed it out and refused to cry then I could count on the fact that

†† they were not changed inside, and were not moving toward obedience.

On the other hand, when they did cry, and when they hugged me back when I

†† hugged them and told them that I loved themó

†† when they did that, they became more softened and sweet.

 

If a child agrees to obey but does so with a posture that screams defiance

†† or indifferenceóthen the obedience promised is not the obedience needed.

If a child sullenly says, Iím sorry, to a brother or sister, or if he slouches or

†† looks resentfully when you are correcting him, then the heart is not changed.

The military has long known that a sloppy salute might as well not be given at all.

 

Theologically speaking, Romans 12 is about sanctification.

Sanctification is the Holy Spiritís work of making you a more holy person.

†† He does that by working in you, prompting you to obey, convicting you,

†† challenging you, and then empowering you and enabling you.

But then, when the Holy Spirit works, you have to respond.

†† You have to do things.Thatís how sanctification progresses.

†† Thatís how you become more holyóthe Spirit prompts and enables, you respond.

 

Sanctification is not just working on your attitude, trying to think right.

But there is this fascinating dynamic, that as you obey with your body,

†† and do things with your body that God commands, it changes your soul.

I know youíve experienced that.You are convicted that you should do something

†† for someone, some act of kindness or generosity.After you do it you find

†† yourself humbled, or softer and more loving, or more grateful for the life

†† God has given you.

Itís no accident that Romans 12 is packed full of things God wants you to do

†† that require bodily activityóserve, teach, encourage, give, share with Godís

†† people in need, practice hospitality, associate with people of low position, etc.

And we will get down to these brass tacks in coming weeks.

 

But I want to take this idea of the body influencing the soul,

†† and go down a rabbit trail, maybe open a can of worms.

Paul says that offering your body as a living sacrifice is your spiritual worshipó

†† that can also be translated your reasonable, or logical service.

Heís making the point that your worship of God, your service of God,

†† is not just something that happens in church on Sunday, you worship God

†† with your whole life, Monday through Saturday.

Iím sure you see that.Itís only reasonable, only logical that if God has shown

†† us mercy, that we should serve him all the time.

 

But what about Sunday?What about corporate worship?How does the command

†† to offer you body as a living sacrifice apply to worship in church on Lordís Day?

When you read the Bibleís instructions on corporate worship,

†† you find command after command to put your body in particular positions.

The Bible tells us to kneel, to stand, to lift our hands.

†† It not only command us to do so, it shows us people doing them, both OT and NT.

Through these positions the congregation is embodying the conviction that we

†† are in the very presence of the Lord.

If the risen, glorified Lord, suddenly stood before us, with eyes like blazing fire,

†† feet like bronze glowing in a furnace, a voice like rushing waters, would you sit?

 

The biblical postures are trans-cultural.Everyone the world over knows what

†† it means to kneel.Itís fallen out of use in American culture, but it remains

†† in the marriage proposal.It embodies supplication, humility, promise to serve.

When the President appears before press corp, when judge enters courtroomó

†† people stand in respect and honor.Stand when national anthem played.

When little children want something from parents, they raise hands toward them.

†† Just watch after Sunday school today, will see little children raise hands to be

†† picked up, or to get change for the coke machine.

Raising hands is also a gesture of exaltation.

 

There is no hard and fast distinctions in Scripture for these worship postures.

Kneeling, standing, and raising hands are all mentioned in different places as

†† postures of prayer.Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Methodists kneel,

†† Pentecostals raise their hands.What do Presbyterians do?Mostly sit.

†† Although we pride ourselves in being biblical.

But if you want the right heart in worship, and if God made us body and soul,

†† inseparably bound so one affects the other, then the right attitude of the body

†† is an essential help to the soul.Weíll talk about this more in coming weeks.

But more to the point of this chapter, Paulís emphasis on serving other people

†† in the church and using your giftsóitís an essential part of your sanctification.

You make your hands, feet, mouth and eyes do good thing, it changes your soul.

†† The importance of your body to God

†† The influence of your body on your soul

 

MP#3The incarnation of your body for others

Thatís an awkward way of stating it, but this is the pointó

The main way you offer your body as a living sacrifice to God is by doing

†† things for people in response to what Jesus has done for you.

 

What is the incarnation?

The word incarnation is not in the Bible, itís a Latin theological term.

I never took Latin, one of the holes in my education, but I did take Spanish.

†† And Spanish helps here.What is the word for meat in Spanish?Carne.

†† Chili con carne is chili with meat.

The incarnation was God the Son taking on a human natureó

†† which means he took on a human soul and a true body of bone and muscle.

 

He ministered in his body.He touched people.He took children in arms.

†† He broke bread and fish.He went to the Temple for the feasts.

He obeyed God in his body.

†† Do you remember his first temptation in the wilderness?

†† He was hungry and the Devil said, Turn these stones into bread.

But he loved and trusted his Father, and did not listen to his body.

 

And, of course, you know where I am going with thisóto his suffering and death.

Christís Passion was much more than physical suffering.

†† The spiritual and emotional pain was much greater than the pain in his body.

And yet, his offering up of his body as a bloody sacrifice as your substitute

†† is the very heart of Godís mercies and grace.

The response of gratitude that the Lord wants, is for you to give your body

†† as a living sacrificeóand that means mostly doing things for people.

 

Earlier I read you those different verses by the Apostle Paul about the body.

And I pointed out that you can hear Paul pushing back against the immorality

†† of Greco-Roman society.Donít do this or that with your body.

†† He even says that earlier in Romans, chapter 6.

But Romans 12 is almost entirely positive commands.

There is very littleóDonít do this.Itís mostly, do this.

Be active in the church body by using your giftsóteach, serve, encourage, give,

†† govern, show mercy, honor one another, share with Godís people in need,

†† practice hospitality, rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn,

†† associate with people of low position, feed your enemy, give him something to

†† drink.

And thatís not the whole picture, Paul also speaks very heavily about thoughts

†† and attitudesólove sincerely, hate what is evil, cling to what is good, never

†† be lacking in zeal, do not be proud.

Remember, there is this other half of the picture weíll get to next weekó

†† the matter of renewing your mind.

 

But here is the point worth focusing on.Every one of the commands involve doing

†† something with your body for other people.Using your feet, going to them.

Using your hands to give them things, using your mouth to say things to them.

†† Using your eyes to see their condition and needs.

And in doing these things, you are the hands and feet and eyes and mouth

†† of Jesus Christ.

 

But there are these words holy and pleasing to God.

Those are pretty intimidating.They are OT worship terminology used to refer

†† to the perfection of the sacrificial animal and order of the service.

You could read those words and thinkóIíll never do anything perfectly.

†† Iíll never do enough for this person God has put in my life.

†† I donít even know what I ought to do.My motives are confused.

But take heart, your holiness and acceptability to God is in Christ.

†† You are well-pleasing to your Father because of the perfection of Jesus.

 

Thereís a hymn that is very precious to me.All For Jesus by Mary James.

First two stanzas go like this:

†† All for Jesus, all for Jesus!All my beingís ransomed powers:

†† All my thoughts and words and doing, All my days and all my hours.

†† Let my hands perform his bidding, Let my feet run in his ways,

†† Let my eyes see Jesus only, Let my lips speak forth his praise.

 

Is that your heart? Do you want to be all for Jesus, every part of you?

Then offer your hands, feet, eyes, and lips to him.Your body is important to him.

†† Your bodily obedience shapes your soul.

†† And with your body you become him for others