J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Living Sacrifice Part 1- Sermon Notes for Romans 12:1-2

Audio for this sermon will be found at http://www.sermoncloud.com/sovereign-king-church/

I just cannot imagine the days of bloody sacrifice in the Old Testament.  As many of you know, our house is not very pet friendly, but even I can’t imagine raising an animal with the sole purpose of having it sacrificed for my sins.

There were several different offerings given throughout the year in the OT system, but basically the giving of a sacrifice looked like this:  The first thing a person did was to select an animal to sacrifice that didn’t have any apparent defects or blemishes.  The sacrifice couldn’t be the runt of the litter either.  It had to be a sacrifice in more ways than one.  It could be a bull, sheep, goat, dove or pigeon, and what animal you chose depended on how wealthy you were.  You offered a more valuable animal if you had more valuable animals.

Then, you would present your sacrifice to the priest to be examined.  If he found it acceptable, the priest would then place his hands on the head of the animal which was a symbolic gesture of the transfer of guilt.

The priest would then slaughter the animal, the blood would be sprinkled on the altar and at times, the blood would be sprayed across the individual or family that was offering the sacrifice.  Can you imagine how nasty that would be?   Can you imagine explaining to your kids why the family goat’s blood needed to be flung across their faces?

Well, once that process was over, the entire animal would be totally burned by fire and the sacrifice would be complete.  Now, imagine doing that at least once a year and sometimes as many as four times a year.  I have a hard enough time getting the kids ready to go to Target in a mini-van that has a/c and TV.  I don’t how in the world you keep kids quiet as you travel through the desert for 5 days just so you can kill the family pet and then get a bath in their blood.

Thankfully, sacrifice today looks completely different.  That is because Jesus has offered the once, and last, and perfect sacrifice for the penalty of sin.  No longer do you, or I or anyone else have to offer anything to God to pay the penalty of sin.  Yet, there are sacrifices still to be made.   As we approach the book of Romans this week, the idea of sacrifice is what we are going to pursue.  With that in mind, let’s answer this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  What does offering God a sacrifice look like today?

Romans 12:1: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

As always, we need to remind ourselves of the context in which these chapters are written.  Over the past two sermons on Romans, we have seen two main thoughts.  God is more faithful to His people and to His promises than any idea of faithfulness that any of us could ever imagine.  In addition, we saw that God’s faithfulness surrounds two central characteristics of His personality.  God is faithfully kind in forgiving sin, and God is faithfully severe in punishing sin.

Every human being lives underneath both of these characteristics of God.  Everyone experiences God’s kindness either generally in the day to day or especially in the forgiving grace of Jesus.  Everyone experiences God’s severity either in their personal payment for their sin or by having Jesus pay their penalty of sin for them.

So in light of these two truths, Paul gives the big “therefore” which will serve as a turning point for the entire book of Romans.  Paul makes a personal declaration, an appeal to those that have faith in Jesus Christ, to make a sacrifice.  In that we are going to see several things.  We will see…

  • The type of sacrifice to be made.
  • The means of sacrifice.
  • The purpose of that sacrifice

First of all the type of sacrifice each believer in Christ is to offer is a sacrifice of their body.  This of course is not a human, bodily sacrifice on an altar but as the passage says, it is a living sacrifice of your body.  Well, what does that mean?  Imagine just the implication for the original hearers and readers of this passage.  They might ask, “Wait a minute, you’re telling me I no longer have to kill anything as a sacrifice?  I can offer to God something that’s living?”

But ask yourself this question:  what is necessary for God’s people to be able to offer living sacrifices instead of offering dead animal sacrifices?   The answer is resurrection.  Someone has to overcome the power of death for anyone to offer a living sacrifice instead of a dead one.  Jesus’ sacrifice for sin was acceptable and holy before God because of His righteous life and His resurrection from the dead breaks the power of sin and enable each and every believer in Christ to offer wonderful, bright living sacrifices.

To truly understand what a living sacrifice is, you need to wrestle with what it means for Christ to be resurrected.  It is as effectual for you as the death of Christ.  On one hand, the resurrection is a fact to be believed.  On the other hand, it is an experience to connect with.  Tim Keller “The Power of the Resurrection”  You cannot have one without the other.

In light of this, there is a very important reason that Paul calls this a bodily sacrifice.  Paul is emphasizing that every aspect of you, not only your spiritual/mental life but every aspect of your self is to be given to God in an act of worship.  That means that not only spiritually physically you worship God as well.  Unfortunately, since the foundation of Christianity is “salvation by faith alone” the physical aspect of worship is often lost.  For many folks, they live their lives with that attitude “I believe in Jesus so I can treat my body like a rental car.”

When we do this, we often miss out on so much of what Christianity should be about.  When we don’t take care of bodies physically by eating well and exercising we de-emphasize the fact that our Savior had to come in the flesh for us to be saved.  When we don’t abstain from physical acts of sexual sin (scripture calls this one of the ways in which we crucify the flesh) we disregard the fact that Jesus had to be crucified in the flesh for us to be saved.  When we don’t serve by physically meeting the physical needs of people, restoring them to health and improving their lives, we disregard the fact that Jesus had to be resurrected in the flesh for us to be saved.

Those 3 ways, caring for our bodies, abstaining physical sin, and meeting the physical needs of others are just 3 of the very few ways in which you can bodily offer a living sacrifice.

So, let’s talk for a minute from verse 1 about the means of sacrifice.  What I mean by that is, “How in the world is God going to find any sacrifice that you offer to Him acceptable and holy?”  In the OT, animals to be sacrificed had to be healthy and without blemish symbolizing purity and the lack of sin.  Ask yourself, “How can I offer anything to God that is pure and without sin?  Verse 1 tells you, present your bodies as a living sacrifice how?  By the mercies of God.

I want to make this clear:  without the mercy of God provided for you by Jesus Christ, there is not one single, solitary action or thought or word that you could offer to God that He would find acceptable or holy.  Without the mercy of God both enabling your obedience and purifying your obedience, you are still left to serving your own means.  Yet with the mercy of God enabling your obedience and purifying your obedience, you can offer to God acts, words, and deeds that are acceptable and holy.

Think about the mercy of God affect the 3 areas of service that I mentioned a minute ago.

Physical care of your body:  You can train your body to be physically fit.  You can eat healthy foods.  You can become disciplined in the areas of prayer and Bible study.  And instead of becoming a puffed up, egotistical, arrogant jerk about those things, you can do them all for the glory of God and by His mercies, He accepts them as worship.

Abstaining from physical acts of sexual sin (scripture calls this crucifying the flesh).  You can avoid looking at pornography.  You can be sexually faithful by waiting until marriage to have sex.  You can be sexually faithful within the context of marriage both physically and emotionally.  You can honor God sexually and by His mercies, He accepts those things as worship.

But you can serve others and meet their needs physically by the mercies of Jesus and God finds it acceptable and holy.  For example, the other day, someone asked me, “What’s the difference between SK’s serving the GPD, the EMS, and Hayes Place and say what the American Red Cross does?  My answer was that we do what we do by the commission of God the Father, in the name of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  By the mercies of God, you can meet people’s physical needs and God promises to work in people’s lives AND finds your work holy and acceptable sacrifice.

Now the purpose of all of these sacrifices is of course worship.   The mercies of Christ take your physical acts of sacrificial obedience and transforms them into spiritual acts of worship.  Because of Jesus, your obedience is not just a slavish law keeping or the hopeless efforts of someone trying to appease an angry god.  The mercies of God which come through the works of Jesus transform all the Christian does so that you can obediently worship in the whole person – that is your spiritual act of worship.

Folks this passage is incredibly important as we start a new year.  Whether or not you make resolutions, most everyone hopes for new or better circumstances at the beginning of a new year.  We need to see that no change, no worship, no discipline can really happen without the mercies of God.  You can’t really worship spiritually in the whole person without God empowering your worship.  Keeping this in mind, let’s look at how we are both living out and preparing for this worship.

This article also appears at the Raleigh Examiner.


January 3, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. im a pastor in a church in Nigeria your site helps improve me and my teachings God bless you.

    Comment by Akintunde Alabi Timothy | August 22, 2012 | Reply

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