Romans Lesson 117 - More Than Skin and Bones
In Romans 12:1 the Apostle Paul reminds believers that you can't have the glory of the Gospel without the grit of the Gospel. Here is Christianity
More than Skin and Bones
I read in the news some time ago about a man who was receiving a lot of attention for his unusual sacrifice. In fact, his selfless act was creating quite a bit of notoriety. He was being called by local media, “a hero.” The reason Rob Smitty was at the receiving end of so much congratulation and attention was that he willingly donated one of his kidneys to a perfect stranger. According to news reports, Rob said that his motivation for doing something like this was that it would make his children proud. Trouble was, his 10 year old daughter wasn’t impressed by his sacrifice. Amber said her father never came to see her and her mother, Rob’s former wife; he never called, not even on her birthday. Amber said, “I don’t think my father’s much of a hero.” The case took an interesting turn as public documents showed Rob had not made child support payments to Amber’s mother in nearly a year.
Can you imagine? Giving one of your kidneys to a perfect stranger in need and failing to provide for the needs of your own child?
It’s really not all that remarkable. In fact, it’s classic human nature.
We like to define where we will act right and how we will look good, and what we will look like to whom and at what time, while at the same time, avoiding the hard truth about ourselves.
Making a good impressions can be accomplished from a distance . . . but authenticity is proven up close.
As we prepare to dive into the truths of Romans chapter 11, I need to warn you . . . it will absolutely remove the ability to make a good impression . . . to ourselves, to others, and most importantly, to God.
Paul is now after the reality of Christianity.
In the first 11 chapters of Romans, it’s possible for us all to say, “Yea, I believe all that stuff.”
You want to talk about justification by faith; condemnation, original sin, eternal hell and heaven; forgiveness by grace, God’s wrath, election, evangelism . . . we can talk!
I’m right there with you! I agree . . . I’m all over it!
But Paul isn’t really gonna talk so much anymore about what we believe. He is going to talk about how we behave.
Paul is going to move from doctrinal education into doctrinal application.
From principle to practice.
In chapter 12, Paul does nothing less than define authentic Christianity.
It’s a chapter that tests us, not at a safe distance, but up close.
It’s one of those chapters that looks at our character, not through a telescope, but a microscope.
It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not chapter of choice for the average Sunday-go-to-meetin’ Christian.
As Paul defines true Christianity, you will discover all over again, much to our discomfort, that it is more than words . . . it is more than a creed . . . it is more than the sinner’s prayer, baptism and church membership.
And it’s more than an act of sacrifice toward a perfect stranger.
I found it interesting that the only vocabulary Paul could use to capture the essence of Christianity was the language of sacrifice and transformation.
Paul begins with characteristic passion.
Therefore . . . that is, on the basis of everything Paul previously revealed in his letter – not just in what we call chapter 11, but from the very beginning when Paul defined himself as a slave of Christ Jesus.
Therefore on the basis of all you have learned about God, here is how you should live for God.
Therefore, Paul writes, I urge you, brethren.
This word, “urge” can be translated “beg”, or “appeal to” or “plead with.”
Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament (Baker Book House, 1989), p. 198
Would you notice that Paul does not say, “Now listen, in light of everything you’ve learned, I think it would be terrific if you tried to live for Christ . . . it’d be kinda nice if you gave it your best shot.”
No . . . “I plead with you brethren, present your bodies a living sacrifice.”
Before we get to far along, let me give you two observations about Paul’s passionate request.
First of all, authentic Christian living is motivated by gratitude, not guilt.
Paul writes, “I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God.”
Paul is saying, “Listen brethren, in view of all that God has given us . . . in light of the grace of God toward us . . . because of everything God has provided for us, do the only thing you should do – give Him your life.
The only fitting response to the gifts of God to us is the gift of ourselves back to God.
In fact, not only is this the motivation for Christian living, it is the secret to Christian victory.
God has given everything to us we need, pertaining to life and godliness. We don’t need anything more from God.
In fact, throughout this letter, Paul has revealed these mercies from God:
Peace of God (chapter 1:7)
Power of the gospel (chapter 1:16)
Kindness and longsuffering of God toward us (2:4)
A right standing before God (3:21-22)
Forgiveness of every sin, past present and future (4:7-8)
Hope in God’s glory (5:2)
The Love of God poured out in our hearts (5:5)
The Holy Spirit (5:5)
Justification by the blood of Christ (5:9)
Salvation from the wrath of God (5:9)
Reconciliation with God (5:10)
The gift of eternal life (6:23)
Freedom to bear fruit for God (7:4)
Membership in the family of God (8:14)
Security in our salvation (8:38-39)
Mercy from God (9:23)
The good news of the gospel (10:17)
God has given us everything.
That’s why Paul doesn’t begin this chapter on the subject of Christian behavior by saying, “Now there’s one more thing you need to receive from God.”
Authentic Christian living isn’t about receiving from God, but giving back to God.
Now don’t misunderstand here:
Being saved is when we receive everything from God.
Being a sacrifice is when we give everything to God.
Salvation is God’s gift to us.
Being a living sacrifice is our gift to God.
In fact, therein lies the secret to victorious Christian living. It isn’t God doing or saying or giving us anything more – He’s already said, done and given us all that we need.
Now it’s our turn to give to Him. And Paul makes the point very clear that we give to Him, motivated not by getting anything more, but in light of the fact that we’ve already gotten it all.
Being a living sacrifice isn’t about getting more from God, but giving our all to God.
The question is, “what motivates your Christian experience?” Obligation? Bribery – so we’ll get something from God? Guilt?
The basis of Christian living, according to Paul’s very first words, is not obligation or fear or bribery or guilt – it is gratitude.
I urge you therefore, brethren, because of the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice.
Let me make another observation:
2) Authentic Christian living is not partial surrender, it’s total.
Paul writes, “present your bodies” literally, present your entire being.
One translation reads, “present all your faculties.” Another reads, “Present your whole being to God.”
Paul is thinking of more than skin and bones. He has in mind the fact that we live in our bodies and our bodies represent everything we have to offer.
Inside the body is our mind, our intellect, our emotions, our plans, our will, our dreams, our thoughts, our desires, our hopes, our frustrations, our disappointments, our longings, everything.
I lay on the altar and offer up to you my hopes, my longings, my disappointments, my will, my emotions, my intellect, my plans . . . everything I sacrifice to You!
By the way, this text implies you can refuse.
Surely God can command us . . . surely He will force us!
Oh, but over and over again, the matter of Christian conduct is our responsibility before God.
You see, in the O.T. the believer chose to bring a sacrifice to God; in the N.T. the believer chooses to be the sacrifice.
I don’t know about you, but I think it would be much easier to make a sacrifice than to be the sacrifice?
I like the story of the farmer who went into the barn and asked his animals to contribute something for his breakfast. The hen clucked what a great idea that was and produced 2 fresh eggs. The cow thought it was great and said he’d provide the milk. They then looked at the reluctant pig, “Well, aren’t you going to give something for our dear farmer?” The pig responded, “That’s easy for you to say, for you it’s a minor contribution, for me it’s total commitment!”
We don’t mind temporary contributions that can be replaced – but it’s a lot different:
- to present to God something that He may not give back;
- to yield something to Him He may never again let us control;
- to offer Him something He may never replace.
Francis Havergal, who wrote what she called her hymn of consecration, came to what she called a crossroads in her life. She had been a believer for decades, but knew there were places in her heart and life she didn’t want God to have. She writes that one day, as if it were a shock of electricity to her mind, that she must sacrifice give every corner of her life to her Lord. She wrote, and I quote, “I realized there must be full surrender before there can be satisfaction.”
Robert J. Morgan, Then Sings My Soul (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003), p. 191
We’ve been singing her hymn of consecration now for around 150 years. It’s Romans 12:1 put to poetry:
Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee,
Take my hands and let them move, at the impulse of Thy love;
Take my feet and let them be, swift and beautiful for Thee;
Take my voice and let me sing, always, only, for my King;
Take my lips, and let them be, filled with messages for Thee,
Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold;
Take my love, my God, I pour at Thy feet its treasures store,
Take myself and I will be, ever, only, all for Thee,
Ever, only, all for Thee.
Now, you need to know that Paul isn’t suggesting we give God just any offering.
He now describes the offering three ways:
- It is alive (priority of life)
Therein lies the problem. Offerings on altars were typically not breathing. That’s how the Jews and Gentiles of Paul’s day would comprehend the concept of an offering.
But Paul says, God doesn’t want a lifeless offering, but a live offering.
And, as Howard Hendricks put it, “the trouble with being alive is that we’re constantly wanting to crawl down off the altar.”
A “living sacrifice” is a reference to the perpetual nature of our offering to God.
This is the offering of every day to God . . . not just the Sabbath.
This kind of offering moves us beyond salvation. It goes beyond Sunday!
Paul adds to the description.
Present your bodies, a living and holy sacrifice.
- It is a holy sacrifice
Just as the Old Testament believer would bring an offering to God that was unblemished, so Paul uses the analogy to urge the believer to live a pure life.
The word for holy is used in the Old Testament for the Holy place and the Holy of Holies.
In the New Testament, the believer is informed of the rather stunning news that he is now the Holy of Holies – Paul wrote, “Have you forgotten that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16).
Peter refers to us as a holy priesthood (I Peter 2:9); a
Paul had already written earlier, “Do not go on presenting the parts of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead and your members as instruments as righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:12-13)
By the way, the word for holy is the same Greek root word that gives us the word “saint.”
Over and over again, the Apostles refer to the believers as saints.
It isn’t something you acquire by vote of some council, it is something you were made by the grace of God.
And it isn’t something you become sometime after you die, it’s a term used to refer to believers who are alive.
Paul wrote, “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae” (Colossians 1:2)
“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi” (Philippians 1:1)
“To those who are saints by calling” (I Corinthians 1:2)
We are saints already – that is we are already set apart unto God as His redeemed people. Paul is only saying in Romans 12:1 that we should live like it.
In other words, we are saints . . . now, act like saints!
You act like a saint or don’t act like a saint.
On the basketball court; in the boardroom; in the shop; in the lunchroom; on a date; with a client; on the golf-course; in the shop; on the campus and in the dorm room.
Act like a saint.
The only way you can is to present your body to Christ.
These are His feet, His hands, His ears, His eyes.
When you make that kind of sacrifice to God, Paul writes further in verse 1 of Romans 12, it is well pleasing to God.
God accepts the offering of our day with pleasure.
Is God pleased?
Well, what have you placed on the altar?
How extravagant is your gift?
When I proposed marriage to my college sweetheart, a few years ago now, I had a ring tucked behind the lamp in the room where I had planned to pop the question and offer her everything I could imagine and anything else I could think of. When she opened the ring box, do you think for a moment, the ring I had for her was one of those plastic jobs you can get out of the bubble gum machine at Food Lion? Any old ring will do, right?
Are you kidding? I needed all the help I could get.
I got the most extravagant ring I could afford – and begrudged the fact that the diamond was so small. I was, in effect, presenting myself to her.
When she accepted my proposal, after some persuasion, we prepared for the wedding.
The day arrived, and she came down the aisle wearing . . . oh, you know . . . whatever she could find in the closet that morning that was white. Any old dress would do, right?
Are you kidding? It was regal, feminine, a beautiful dress she had chosen to communicate her heart in being presented to me.
Now, the ring I had selected pleased her and the presentation of her in that wedding gown certainly pleased me . . . and that was our objective.
Paul writes, “Listen, brethren, present this kind of offering to the Lord – the sacrifice of daily living . . . the sacrifice of a holy life . . . He will be pleased . . . and that is the ultimate objective.
The question a living sacrifice asks is, not, “Am I well pleased? But, “Is God well pleased?”
Two final Observations from the first half of this great text:
1) Jesus Christ is inviting the believer to sacrifice everything without negotiating the terms of surrender.
That’s the funny thing about sacrifices. They automatically give up the right to negotiate altars.
We don’t determine where they’re located . . . how comfortably they’re built . . . what the conditions are that surround them.
Presenting yourself to God means your life is out of your hands.
An extravagant offering comes with no strings attached.
That’s more like Jacob, the manipulator who followed after God with all kinds of strings attached. In Genesis 28, while on the run from Esau, his twin brother he had tricked out of the family inheritance, He prayed to God and said, “Lord, if You will be with me on this journey and bring me back safely and give me food to eat and clothing to wear, then You will be my God.”
Then Jacob added, I’ll take this boulder here on the ground and I’ll set it up as a pillar and dedicate it as God’s house.”
This boulder, Lord, will be a monument to Your faithfulness.
That’s so generous of Jacob, isn’t it?
“Lord, I’ll dedicate this rock and the ground around it as your temple . . . this will be Your special spot.”
I’m sure God was thinking, “Wow – I get that rock! Am I lucky to have Jacob, or what.”
The quality of the gift reveals the value of the recipient to the giver.
Let me put it this way: the quality of your life sacrifice to God, reveals what you think of God.
Will any old dress do? Will any old ring be good enough?
2) Jesus Christ is not asking the believer, “Who will die for me?” He is asking, “Who will live for me?”
You can die a martyr’s death, in one heroic act of faith. Many heroes of the faith did just that.
God, most likely, will not call most of us to that kind of death. But He is calling us to that kind of life!
Frankly, there are many Christians in here who might even be willing to win the martyr’s crown . . . willing and eager to die for Jesus Christ.
How many, though, are just as eager to live for Christ.
That can be mundane . . . ordinary . . . routine.
I love that little poem . . .
To live above with the saints we love,
That will be grace and glory,
But to live below with the saints we know,
Well, that’s another story.
Ladies and Gentlemen, God is not calling you to die a martyr’s death and go to heaven; He is calling you to live a martyr’s life on earth.
Paul is not inviting you to a life of deliverance, but a life of dedication . . . knowing that deliverance will one day come.
Until then . . . we say to our Lord, “Because of your mercies toward me, can I do anything other than give my entire being to You . . . may I live daily for you . . . holy and set apart . . . not for my glory and not my pleasure, but for Yours alone.”
Living sacrifices have been praying like that in every generation.
Will you pray like that in your generation?
Pray, like John Wesley, one of the pioneer leaders in the Great Awakening, who often put his life on the line for the cause of Christ.
He wrote, this prayer of total consecration to his Lord, sometime in the late 1800’s;
I am no longer my own, but Thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by Thee or laid aside for Thee,
Exalted for Thee or brought love by Thee.
Let me be full; let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure;
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am Thine.
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