Anyone remember this song from when you were growing up? “O be careful little hands what you touch. O be careful little hands what you touch. For the Father up above is looking down in love, O be careful little hands what you touch. O be careful little feet where you go…O be careful little mouth what you say….”
I thought of it this past week as I began to construct this message as it reminds us that being a Christian doesn’t just involve a surrendered heart, but it involves a surrendered life. It isn’t just about an inside decision, but it is also about a commitment to live a certain way. It isn’t just offering God space in our hearts, but it is allowing Him to control every part of us. It isn’t just about attending church weekly and serving Him some, but it is about devoting our entire being to Him for His use and glory.
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 let’s talk this morning about what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 12:1 that we should dedicate or offer our bodies to God as living sacrifices. Sacrifices in ancient times were already dead when they were offered. An animal was killed and placed on an altar of sacrifice or its blood was dripped on an altar of sacrifice to atone for sin. The Bible clearly tells us in Hebrews 10 that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was a once- and-for-all sacrifice so those kinds of sacrifices for sin are no longer needed. The price for sin, all sin, past, present, and future has been paid. So Paul didn’t say, “Offer your bodies as a sacrifice.” That work was accomplished by Jesus on the cross. But he did say, “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.”
Paul is saying, “In light of the fact that the price for sin has been paid and that you have been able to receive mercy, because of these truths, offer your bodies as living sacrifices to God.” That is the next step. That is our response to being recipients of mercy. Now, the word “living” in the Greek means “constant dedication.” (http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/684/what-does-the-living-sacrifice-mean-in-romans-121) So, unlike Old Testament sacrifices that were offered one time and couldn’t be repeated because the animal had been consumed by the fire, we are to offer living sacrifices that continue. Living for Christ doesn’t mean a one-time decision, but an ongoing, continuous lifestyle that is dedicating one’s self constantly to God.
And Paul made it a point emphasize that living sacrifices offer God their bodies. Our bodies are connected with our worship life. Somehow our bodies can glorify and please God. Paul made the same argument in chapter six where he said, “Romans 6:12-13 (NIV) 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 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.
Interesting choice of words here. Paul says we can offer our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness. So now we are living or ongoing sacrifices and what we are committed or devoted to when it comes to the use of our bodies is righteousness.
Let’s get specific. We sing songs that say, “Lord, I give You my heart,” and “Lord, Take the First Place in My Heart,” but perhaps we also need to sing songs that say, “Lord, I give You my body” and “Lord, take the first place in my body.” J
Do we realize how preoccupied our culture is with the human body? The culture is obsessed with how our bodies should feel. What they should look like. How they should be dressed. What they should eat. We are bombarded more times than we could count with TV messages, online ads, and the pressure from others to interact with our bodies in ways that are contrary to Scripture and to become preoccupied with our bodies in ways that would be contrary to Scripture. We are constantly educated about what not to wear, how to dress for optimal sex appeal, and what to eat for every emotion we experience. Paul is telling us rather than take our cues from culture about how to use our bodies, we need to offer our bodies to God and let Him educate us on how to use them in righteous, God-glorifying ways.
This idea of dedicating our bodies to the Lord in righteousness is key to successful Christian living and Paul knew it. He was so serious about glorifying God with His body that he said in I Corinthians 9:27, “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” Clearly, Paul thought if he was going down as a Christian, the way he was going down involved the use of his body. He was adamant about being disciplined with his body. His very word choice about “beating his body and making it a slave” makes him sound half crazy. Paul had used his body in evil ways prior to his conversion. He had spewed hate with his mouth and made murderous threats. He had killed Christians. But following his conversion every part of his life changed including the way he used his body!
Paul says in I Corinthians 6:20, “You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
We have an opportunity to thank God for Christ’s sacrifice by offering Him our bodies for His use. Have an opportunity to demonstrate that Christ lives in us and to testify to how he can transform a person’s life by dedicating our bodies to Christ for Him to use in that way. When we accept what Jesus has done for us by saving us from a life of sin and giving us eternal life in heaven, we surrender to His plans, His will, and His ways which includes the use of our bodies.
So Christians who make the claim that it’s their body, and they can do what they want with it don’t understand the principle of true discipleship. True discipleship, Jesus says, means laying down our agenda to pick up and carry God’s agenda. God’s agenda is that His glory would be seen through His church. When we use our bodies to embrace the culture or to satisfy the desires of the flesh through sinful means or to hurt others we aren’t glorifying God with our bodies.
Of course, in our Bod for God class, Pastor Steve Reynolds, the author of the program talks about dedicating our stomachs to God. He shares how gluttony is a sin, how food can become an idol, how it can be an addiction, and how it can compromise a person’s health which impacts their quality of life, their ability to serve God and sometimes can impact their witness to others. I’ll leave any more talk about food and eating to the weight loss class, but if that is an area of your life that hasn’t been fully surrendered to God, perhaps the Holy Spirit is speaking to you about that area of your life right now.
What other parts of our body might God want to address? The Bible says in Romans 10:15, And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Why not dedicate our feet to the Lord this morning! Being willing to use our feet to go to the places God would assign is definitely a way to glorify God with our body. Staying out of places where sin reigns and temptation is in our faces is another way to glorify God with our bodies. Maybe this morning you have resisted being “sent” by God into a situation where you knew He wanted to use you to share His love. Dedicate your feet to Him! Maybe you have been allowing your feet to take you into questionable places, places that are dedicated to sin and evil, make a decision today to dedicate your feet to God by staying out of those places.
Perhaps when you think about honoring God with your body you think about your sexuality. Parts of our body have been designed to experience physical pleasure through physical intimacy. Scripture says there is a time and place for that expression. The time is once you are married, and the place is inside the confines of that marriage. That takes a lot of dedication. That is a big commitment, especially for our 13-14 year olds through our young twenty-somethings and beyond for the single adult. That is a big deal. It can seem almost cruel, especially to young people who are experiencing such strong physical desires, that when they are perhaps least able to resist due to where they are in their maturity, God is asking them to resist the most difficult thing that one could have to subdue in their lifetime. But Scripture does tell us God can give us power to wait until that right time and place.
Even how we dress our bodies ties in with our sexuality. Ladies and young ladies, when we choose to dress modestly we aren’t only glorifying God, but we are also respecting and helping our male brothers in Christ. Generally speaking, men are far more visual than women and their sexuality is connected with their visual orientation. If we want to honor God we will honor the men in our life by not dressing in a way to draw unnecessary attention to those features which could cause their eyes to linger longer than they should. The lower cut, the shorter, the tighter . . . all of that isn’t helpful to men who also are trying to honor God with their bodies. So, girls, let’s help a brother out and cover it up!
What about our hands. How can we use our hands to glorify God? Pastor Reynolds, author of the Bod for God book talks about what we pick up with our hands can have destructive potential to harm our bodies. Putting the wrong foods in our mouths or too much food in our mouths or picking up addictive substances to take into our bodies won’t glorify God. What about being violent or abusive by hitting or slapping people with our hands? Obviously that doesn’t glorify God.
What about the work we do with our hands? Are we giving our best effort to our employers? The Psalmist prayed that God would “establish the work of his hands” (Psalm 90:17). What about sending an encouraging email or writing a letter of encouragement out? Those are ways to glorify God with your hands. What about hugging your children and letting them know you love them? How about making a meal for someone who is sick? What if you used your hands to provide home repair or lawn care for someone who couldn’t do it for themselves? There are lots of ways to use our hands to glorify God.
One of the most powerful parts of our human body is our speech organs. Our tongues. Our mouths. Glorifying God in the things we say is very important. I was keenly aware when I was in Michigan just a few weeks ago that I was in a different part of the Country. There is definitely a Michigan accent, a dialect true to that part of the US. I’ve heard that accent in other places when I have been traveling, and I could tell where the people were from. Their speech gave them away.
Some of y’all from other counties in WV have a drawl and twang that gives you away as well! (Michelle Vest) Listen, as Christians, our speech should give us away. The way we talk ought to tell people something about us. It ought to be obvious by the things we say and the things we don’t say, that we don’t look to the culture and the world to educate us on what is appropriate language.
Listen to these verses from the book of James from the Message Translation.
James 3:5 (MSG) 5 A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire.
You want to make a bad situation worse? Speak negatively about it. Be critical. Pick the situation and the people and the process apart. Talk about how you would do it so much better. Talk about how the people involved are idiots or stupid or whatever. Lump people all together in the same category and label people.
I just want to encourage us who follow Christ to pay careful attention to the tone and nature of our speech. 2 Timothy 2:23-25 says, “ 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct. . .
From time to time there have been folks get offended and upset about some political discussions in Christian settings or between Christians or from Christians when they post on social media. We certainly all have a right to an opinion. We certainly need to exercise a Christian opinion when it comes to how we vote. But to become argumentative over the political process or the candidates or to lump all democrats into one category or all republicans into another category or to call the candidate’s names isn’t helpful, and I don’t believe it glorifies God.
You know when what you have to say or to post is meant to be a “zinger” or a “take that!” kind of post. You know when you intend to do more than share the facts or to speak on behalf of who you plan to vote for. (And if you post something political that offends me personally, if I know you and your walk with Christ, I am going to assume you have run whatever by Him and are sharing because you are convicted to share, and I am going to continue to love you.) But let’s be careful.
James 3:7-10 (MSG) 7 This is scary: You can tame a tiger, 8 but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. 9 With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. 10 Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! My friends, this can’t go on.
Just as we can’t adopt the philosophy that “it is my body and I can do what I want with it,” we can’t truly embrace, “It’s a free country, and I can say what I want” . . . not if we are Christians. To curse people and to bless God is to dishonor Him and to destroy people who were created in His image. We can’t think that our worship or praise or blessing of God’s name makes up for the cursing we do during the week. We need to dedicate our mouths to God.
What about our eyes? Have they been dedicated to the glory of God? What we watch is so important. Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing.” There are websites you don’t need to view. Establishments with words like “The Lion’s Den” in the title are clues that you don’t need to see what is inside. Playboy, Hustler and Penthouse don’t have good enough articles to justify anything. Girls, we aren’t exempt here. We can be just as guilty of looking at things and watching things we shouldn’t.
We can dedicate our eyes to God by reading things and watching things that will build up our faith. We can dedicate our eyes to God by admiring the beauty of nature and all that God has created.
How many hours of social media or TV or video games do we really need to view each day?
Another part of our bodies we could offer in dedication is our ears. We need to listen to people in a way that glorifies God. We need to let people know they matter by taking time to listen to them.
We need to refuse to listen to gossip. We need to excuse ourselves when dirty jokes are being told. We need to turn off music that exalts sin and stirs up lustful thoughts and passions.
Listening to our parents, listening to people who are in authority, as long as they aren’t trying to sway us in the wrong direction, listening with the goal of obedience glorifies God. Let’s dedicate our ears to the Lord.
Our minds are definitely parts of our bodies. We are told in Philippians 2 to have the same mind that is in Christ Jesus. That is a pretty lofty goal, but that is the one we are to have as disciples of Jesus. The second verse of our Romans 12 text tells us that we have to have our minds renewed. Only when we think like Christ will we know the will of God. Only when we are thinking like Christ will we do what He did when it is time to overcome temptation and defeat the devil. Only when we are thinking like Christ will we treat people like He did.
We need to think about Jesus and His Word. We can use our minds to meditate on Scripture and to memorize it. We can spend time thinking about others and praying for them. We need to think about things that are helpful. I’ll bet all of us could use our minds to be more productive than we have been to date. We just need to be consciously dedicating our minds to God.
We are all a work on progress. All of us have dishonored God with our bodies. All of us could use an opportunity to rededicate them back to the God who has generously given us a body with which to enjoy life and to glorify His name.
I love the picture of dedication in baptism. When people are baptized the symbolism is that they are dying to their way of life when they go under the water, and they are being raised to new life when they come up out of the water. Colossians 2:12 says we have been buried with Christ in baptism. Most of us embrace that part when it comes to our sins being forgiven. We love the idea that our sins have been washed away and that we have been cleansed by God and made new. That feels great. But is our sin all that gets “buried?”
The picture in water baptism is that our entire being gets immersed. Our whole body goes under that water. We choose to be made new not only in our hearts, but in every aspect of our lives including in our bodies.
If you haven’t given God your heart, that is the first and most important part of your being you need to surrender. He has offered you His by sending Jesus to pay the price for your sin. You simply have to accept God’s love and forgiveness. When you do, the burden of sin is lifted off of you. The penalty of sin is erased, and the pattern of sin can be changed in your life as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in you.
If you have given Christ your heart, I am going to challenge you to surrender your entire body to Him as a Living Sacrifice. I am going to ask you to kneel and pray that God would be glorified through your stomach, eyes, sexuality, ears, mouth, hands, mind, and feet. And if you have sinned against Him in your body in any way, simply confess that sin, ask for forgiveness and re-dedicate the part that needs a fresh start.
Let’s surrender all of ourselves to the Lord in an act of dedication this morning.