|by David Smith
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1 NIV)
If you've been a Christian very long, you've probably heard more than one sermon or lesson based on this classic text of Scripture. But have you ever walked away from this text asking yourself something like the following:
If you've ever asked those sort of questions, let me suggest to you to view the remainder of Romans 12 as your answer. Think of Romans 12:1-2 as an introduction and the rest of the chapter as elaboration.
- If I offer up my life as a living sacrifice to God, what exactly will my life look like?
- What specifically will be my "offering" - my "doing"', my "life"?
- Since my daily worship is my daily living, can someone please tell me what "acts of worship" make my life a "living sacrifice" that is "holy and pleasing to God"?
The remainder of Romans 12 can basically be divided into main thoughts:
Let's focus on just the first of these two thoughts - powerfully love other Christians.
- Treat fellow Christians with love (vs.3-16)
- Treat those who are yet to believe and who give you a hard time for your faith with love (vs.17-21).
"What I need are some specifics as to 'how' I'm to love other Christians!" you insist.
Great! Let's allow an inspired apostle speak his mind on how we are to do this. We'll find four very practical "how to" thoughts in Romans 12:3-16.
1. Live humbly with other believers. (vs.3)
"Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." (vs.3)
Paul's first insight on how a Christian's sacrificial life is made evident to other Christians is by the way they think of themselves in relation to others. They're humble. They're not selfish or demanding. They're not directive or domineering. They're humble.
How can you lay your life on the altar to God today? Deliberately, consciously strive to live humbly with the rest of the church.
2. Learn to recognize and appreciate the diversity of gifts God has sprinkled throughout the lives of other Christians (vs.4-8)
"...in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us." (vs.5-6a)
There's a strong spirit which flows through much of what calls itself Christianity today - and that spirit is rather inward and selfish. This spirit borders on the edge of obsession at times. It is a spirit that cries out for personal attention and for "my needs to be met." It seeks out attention and advancement for itself.
How can you make your life a living sacrifice today? Strive to see your role in the church not so much as an end to be satisfied, but as a means through which others can be blessed. Seek to serve, and not to be served.
Cultivate a heart for others in the church and not merely a sense of duty (vs.9-10)
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." (vs.9-10)
We live in a cold, distant, individualistic society. The dominant question is all too often "What can you do for me?" rather than "How can I demonstrate my devotion to you?" The concept of "covenant" has all to often been unwittingly exchanged for a mere "contract." Commitment and devotion, loyalty and dedication should be words that come to other Christian's minds when they think of you.
So how can you live a life pleasing and acceptable to God today? Deliberately swim against the tide and tie your heart, not just your head or your habits, to God's people.
Grow eyes to see all of your life as an opportunity for self-sacrifice (vs.11-16)
"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." (vs.11)
How can you worship God on Monday through Saturday, and not just on Sunday? By offering in spirit whatever you do, wherever you are, whoever you're with, to God.
How do you "offer your body" as a "living sacrifice"? How does a Christian live? What does a Christian do?
Love. Love the way Jesus loved.
Live a life of love. The way Jesus loves.
Lay down your life for others. The way Jesus laid down his life for you.
Live selflessly and sacrificially. As Jesus sacrificed himself for you and for all.
"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV)
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