How to Do Romans 12:1-2
Romans 12:1-2 1 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. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
So, I’m not actually planning on speaking on Romans 12:1-2 today. I am actually going to be preaching Romans 12:3-10. So why did I read Romans 12:1-2? I read it because I believe it is foundational for all that is unpacked in verses 3-10. If we truly desire to do Romans 12:1-2, if we truly desire to give our bodies for God’s service, to submit our minds for His truth, and to surrender our will for His holy and perfect will, how we do life is going to reflect those three pursuits. What I am trying to say is that if we are going to do Romans 12:1-2 we are most definitely going to do Romans 3-16 as well. In fact, we cannot say we have done Romans 12:1-2 if we are not seeking to do 12:3-10.
If we are going to do Romans 12:1-2 we first need to undergo an HONEST EVALUATION. Say that with me. “Honest evaluation.”
Look at verse 3: For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: 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.
Who are you? In this moment, who are you? What have you been about? In what ways have you grown spiritually this year? If I were to ask you to write down on a piece of paper how you have grown spiritually in 2019, what would you write? Could you write anything down? If I were to ask you to write down the ways you have served the Lord, what would you write? If I were to ask you to write down the names of the people you had shared the Gospel with, how many people would make your list? Many of us might say we are mature Christians because we have gone to church for years, but how does that translate into the way we live? Does church once or twice a week automatically translate into living as Living Sacrifices?
Does your body truly belong to the Lord? Has your mind been transformed to think like Jesus or are you still committed to the cultural norms and ideologies? Does the way you have spent 2019 prove that you are committed to God’s will or your own? Paul says, “Look folks, you need to be honest with yourselves about where you really stand.”
If we aren’t careful, a spiritual arrogance can creep into our lives and we can have a false sense of religious zeal when really we are far from the Living Sacrifices that are described in Romans 12:1-2. The very fact that Paul is addressing the people of Rome in this way, that he is telling them not to think of themselves more highly than they should, is probably the revelation that this was an issue.
A person who is a living sacrifice isn’t quick to say, “Look at all I have done,” but will be quick to ask, “What more can I do?”
I think what Paul is trying to help the Roman believers remember is that people who are living sacrifices are those who stay low, who humbly walk with God each day, waiting for Him to show them the direction He would have them to go. In Matthew 5:3, Jesus said, “Blessed are the humble, the poor in Spirit.” God is actively at work to bless and help and strengthen and energize and give joy and quality of life to those who are humbly walking with Him.
Humble people recognize that their way could never be best, and that God’s way will always trump theirs. Humble people recognize there is a limit to their knowledge and giftedness, so they must stay bowed down before the One who can enlighten them and the One who can empower them for any task.
Humble people don’t view serving others as beneath them, but they see it as the calling of their life because when they serve, they are following in the footsteps of Jesus. For you see, discipleship isn’t about titles but towels. It is about stooping to wash the feet of others around us like Jesus did. Discipleship isn’t about seeking the highest position, but the most helpful position as we seek to serve others.
Humble people realize that if they don’t stay committed to God in their bodies, they are going to mess things up. They will mess up their lives and the lives of other people around them. If they don’t stay committed to God’s truth, they will lean on their own understanding and will mess up their lives and the lives of those around them. If they don’t stay committed to God’s will, the plans they will come up with will deliver something that is less than God’s best to them. They will live in a way that God can’t bless because God won’t bless selfish, sinful, power-hungry, unholy plans.
Humble people are willing to do whatever is needed no matter who gets the credit for it when it is all said and done. They don’t worry if the opportunity leads to a high profile, a Facebook “thank you” or the applause of others. They simply have the attitude of a servant. What is our motivation for the things we do?
You can have lots of religious head knowledge, but if the Spirit of the Living God doesn’t fully possess you, you have only fooled yourself into thinking that you are good to go with God. If you are still committed to power and control, if you expect to influence people by impressing them with your gifts, talents, accomplishments or religious knowledge rather than through service and sacrifice, you aren’t following after Jesus at all, but you are actually following the god of this age, Satan himself.
I’m just being straight up honest this morning. That is the way Satan operates. That is what he is about. We need to make sure our motives, our hearts, our passions, our thoughts, our actions and attitudes look as different as daylight and dark from the ways of the devil.
I will not call the name, but a prominent, nationally-known Christian leader, just this week, operated not as a Living Sacrifice, not with sober judgment or humility, and he said hurtful, disparaging things about another nationally-known Christian leader. He said them in a way to belittle and to dismiss that leader’s contribution to the Kingdom of God, in a way to “put that person in their place.” Here’s what I know: It doesn’t matter how “high up” a person is in terms of spiritual authority or influence, if a person doesn’t take regular inventory of their souls, into the deepest recesses of their hearts, they are capable of thinking they are above the law of love, above the command to be kind, above the regular need to be checked by and controlled by the power of the Holy Spirit and they can do great damage not only to the people that become their targets but to the entire Kingdom of God.
I say that because the world is completely turned off by spiritual arrogance. Completely. They don’t want to know how much we know. They want to know how much we care. They don’t want our religious pedigrees. They want our prayers, our friendship, and our support. Just as Jesus stooped and made Himself nothing (Phil 2) in order to identify with and to serve all He encountered, our goal as Living Sacrifices is to do the same. Spiritually speaking, our knees and our backs ought to hurt a little from bending over to minister to others. Spiritually speaking, our arms and hands ought to be a little weary from trying to help carry someone else’s load. If we are going to be living sacrifices, there will actually be an element of sacrifice to our efforts. Let’s be honest. Gut level honest. What is it costing us to follow Jesus? How “all-in” are we? So Paul tells the Romans in 12:3 to do some honest evaluation. What are some questions we might ask ourselves?
Are we living as stumbling blocks to others? Are we holding grudges against each other? Are we pretending more than we are actually practicing our Christianity? Are we open to correction or do we believe we have the full revelation of truth? Are we being honest with God when He speaks to us? Are we acting on what He tells us to do? Are the habits of Bible reading and prayer truly habits or do we see them as duties or do we just ignore them all together? Can we just take some spiritual inventory this morning?
In addition to honest evaluation, I see that Paul is encouraging FAITHFUL COOPERATION. Say that with me, “Faithful Cooperation.”
Romans 12:4-8 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Healthy organizations, whether businesses, individual families or churches will be healthy only as each person is contributing as a faithful team member. God has put us together because we are better together. Each of us has been given gifts and talents to use to serve one another and to build up the Body of Christ. That is what Living Sacrifices do. We look out for each other instead of just looking out for ourselves.
We are saved by grace, and we are gifted by God’s grace (verse 6) to work to build each other up. It takes 100 volunteers for our children’s ministry to operate the way it does. I hope the kids that are growing up in this ministry will one day be thankful for those who have given, sacrificially given, missing services in here, to minister to their hearts and to help them grow spiritually. I would encourage you all to thank a children’s ministry worker today because it takes more than a village around here; it takes an army. But we have 100 teens and adults, who at some point during the course of each month, give up what we are enjoying this morning so that our kids can be built up.
There are some in our congregation who will regularly say to me, “If you know of someone in need, let me know because I have the gift of giving, and I would like to help meet that need.” Isn’t that beautiful? How many of you enjoyed a cup of coffee here after you got to church? Aren’t you thankful that that burst of caffeine was lovingly prepared for you so that you could get in here and give your all in worship with lots of energy? Plus, caffeine makes us all a little kinder. Anyone know what I am talking about? Just sayin’.
Our Trustees are so faithful and careful with the finances of the church, meeting regularly to take care of business and to plan for the future. This church cannot continue to move forward without faithful leadership. Showing up when you sign up and stepping up when you have the ability to meet a need—all contributes to the health of the Body of Christ.
The many people who donated candy and came to decorate a station for the many kids to enjoy enabled our reach to go beyond those who call this church home. Thank you for your faithfulness to be there for the kids in our community.
Those who teach and prepare lessons for Sunday School classes, midweek Bible studies and small groups, week after week, thank you. Your faithfulness is providing continuity and quality Christian education for those who are seeking to grow in the Lord.
Some of you have stood on this platform for well over a decade and strummed guitars and sang on the worship team and in the choir. When you use your gifts, which means sacrificing time to show up and practice, you are enabling the worship life of an entire congregation.
I bet there are people here who have made hundreds of casseroles to minister to those who are grieving. I’m just sure of it. Our security team is giving up service times to keep us all safe. I am blessed when I go visit someone in a hospital or nursing home and see cards there from church members and when I hear that a church member beat our staff to a visit it makes my heart swell. Our “Come Together” building fund campaign is only happening because of faithful cooperation. Those who are faithfully, regularly, sacrificially giving are making our gatherings and our expanded reach to our community possible.
I don’t know of a place where there is evidence of a greater spirit of cooperation than in the Wednesday weekly prayer meeting that now meets at 11:30. We are in that room warring for Heaven to meet earth, and let me tell you something, IT DOES! And there is a spirit of unity and togetherness like none other. I often tell the team when we finish praying that the peace I have when we are done, the relaxation that comes as a result of our efforts together, is better than a massage. 🙂
Many pastors, and I mean many pastors, tell stories of how lay people and church boards try to control the pastor and the plans that God is giving to the pastor to execute. In many places pastors aren’t free to lead, but are told to keep to the pulpit and forget trying to make any changes in the ministries of the church. I can say in 12 and ½ plus years I have never felt that way. The encouragement and support you have given me through your cooperative spirit is what has made a now long pastorate possible, and it is what has made the ongoing growth of the ministry possible. I am grateful for the faithful cooperative spirit here at TVCOG. As new people come into the life of the church, we want you to share in that faithful cooperation aspect, finding your place to serve and use your spiritual gifts.
Maybe part of honest evaluation is taking a look at your own level of cooperation, your own contribution, your own volunteer efforts. Are you serving with the gifts God has given to you? Faithful cooperation is just as important as the preaching or teaching of the Word. I spoke at a women’s retreat a few Saturdays ago in PA, and I told the ladies there that a pastor’s favorite question is, “How can I help?’ Just sayin’.
Honest evaluation. Faithful cooperation. The third thing Paul highlights here is LOVING PARTICIPATION.
Participating is one thing, but doing so lovingly, with the spirit of love, with the attitude of love, is critical. Love is what makes the difference between carrying out a task and having a positive or eternal impact. What Paul wants us to understand is that it is possible to use spiritual gifts in an unspiritual way, and it is possible to use our gifts in an unloving way. The same point was made by Paul in I Corinthians 13.
One commentator called love the “circulatory system” of the spiritual body. Love keeps everything circulating and percolating as it should. Love is what keeps us from living offended. Love is what gives people room and time to grow without judgment and unnecessary criticism.
Look at verses 9 and 10: 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Love must be sincere. (vs. 9) I read this a few weeks ago and was truly impacted by it. The Holy Spirit keeps whispering it to me. Love is more than words, and it is even more than actions. I’m praying God will give me a generous and sincere love for all people. Hypocritical love is a total turnoff to the world. Maybe part of honest evaluation is looking at how much we really love people from our hearts.
We don’t love people because of what they could do for us. We don’t love people in order to get them to play some role for us or to complete a task for us. We don’t love people because it makes us look good. We love people because Christ first loved us and His love compels us to live that way (II Cor. 5:14). A lack of love will mess with our ability to experience faithful cooperation. When you aren’t “feeling the love” you won’t want to be involved in the ministry. We’re all human. We’re going to have moments, mistakes, mess ups, and “me-first attitudes” from time to time. Love each other anyway. Let me just say that love is a two-way street. You can’t just want to experience it without being willing to express it, sincerely, from your heart. I believe if you are doing your part to love others, you will sense the love of God from others in return, but if you pull away and put up walls, you will suffer a loss of love in your heart.
After Paul says that our love has to be sincere, he goes on to say in verse 10 that it has to be a devoted kind of love.
SHOW THIS VERSE: Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
We need the kind of commitment that says “even if you hurt my feelings, I’m going to love you.” “Even if you try to disconnect from the body and stop coming to church for long periods of time, I’m going to love you.” “Even if you get preoccupied with the things of the world and start doing things you shouldn’t, I’m going to love you.” “Even if you try to distance yourself from me because you are trying to hide what you are doing, I’m going to love you.” A devoted love. A “no matter what you do” love. This is how we are called to love. It’s deep. It is devoted. And look at the end of verse 10 as a third aspect of love is highlighted. It says, “Honor one another above yourselves.”
What would it look like if we honored one another above ourselves? What does it mean to show honor?
Could we have each other’s backs?
Could we assume the best rather than the worst about each other’s intentions?
Could we love each other enough to resolve conflict in a loving way, privately, one-on-one, rather than process our hurt with friends or on social media?
Could we encourage and praise one another when we see something to celebrate?
Could we refuse to belittle each other or to make fun of people in a way that cuts them down?
Could we refuse to gossip about people?
Could we speak words of blessing over people?
Could we tell people how we see God is using them?
I guess honor is all about lifting people up.
Maybe this is another opportunity for honest evaluation. How sincere is our love? How devoted is our love? How much are we showing honor to our family members, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to the rest of the world?
I’ll share with you that many people who claim to know Christ aren’t interested in hearing messages like this. I have actually had people tell me so. They want to be able to go to church and hear about God’s love and hear about Heaven and hear about God’s blessings, but they don’t want to hear that God wants anything for their lives that is different from how they are currently living and they don’t want to hear that God wants anything from them in the way of sacrifice or service. I can’t be faithful to my post without teaching the whole truth. I couldn’t truly love people if I withheld God’s expectations for their lives. So, here we are.
Honest Evaluation. Faithful Cooperation. Loving Participation. What is God saying to you about each one of those just now?