Sermon on Romans 11:33-12:8 (esp. Romans 12:1-2a), for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost 2020 (A), "Launched from Grace to be a Living Sacrifice"

 Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

·         In Romans 11 and 12 Paul gushes at God’s bottomless grace.

  • universal disobedience of humans >>> but God showed His grace to all mankind
  • unexpected, unnatural to show mercy to rebels or love your enemies; but this is just what God did in sending Jesus. He reached down and pulled us up out of our sin, to make us His dear children.

o   zero in on Romans 12:1-2a, but first let’s launch from 11:35. No one could ever put God in our debt. God never “owes us” anything.

§  Human indebtedness: kindness, money, saved life: “I owe you my life” or “I owe you my undying thanks”, etc. Our position before God… owe our life and undying thanks, but the tables can never be reversed. nothing so dramatic that puts God in our debt.

§  100% pure gift of God’s grace. Not earned or deserved in any way. Salvation and forgiveness are never our wages or our paycheck from God but are always undeserved and freely given. Illlustrate His continuing goodness and mercy… even though we don’t earn or deserve it.

o   Grace as launching point from Romans 11 to 12. New life as a living sacrifice launches from free grace. No such thing as balancing the scales or putting God in our debt. The new life ≠ “brownie points” with God.

§   Naturally, we want somehow to repay that debt. But God doesn’t ask for repayment of the debt. He cancels it and calls us to live out the life that He freely gave us, by freely showing the same mercy and love toward others.

o   With that in mind, look at Romans 12:1-2a again: “1I 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. 2Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” And listen again in the J.B. Phillips translation: “With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold but let God re-mold your minds from within.”

o   God’s mercies in Christ launch us into new life. Starts, continues, and finishes on the foundation of Jesus’ redeeming love for us.

§  Living not dead. Cf. animal sacrifices: costly; your wallet; surrendering something of great value…paired with confession of sin and sorrow to God. appeal for mercy.

§  But in NT, promised mercy in Christ. New meaning for “sacrifice”

o   Old sacrifices: wages of sin is death. Guilt.

§  new living sacrifice: thanksgiving for His mercy. Shouts in praise to God, “I am forgiven and made new!” It’s a sacrifice of thanksgiving for His mercy.

§  OT sacrifices: innocent substitute. Points to Jesus once for all! full debt erased!

o    “living sacrifice” = costly devotion or worship to God. Surrender your body, your life to Christ. Sacrifice = doesn’t come cheap. God’s asking for all of you.

§  your worth? Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…join the Spirit in giving your life over to holiness. To be set apart for God. Triply valuable. Continuing grace.

§  Keep ourselves from Him to our own hurt and harm. Live for ourselves—save our life and we’ll end up losing it. Dead-end path. Keep God’s gift for ourselves, and not live for Him.

o   “intelligent act of worship?” Greek: “logiken”, (“logic” or “logical”). Captures Paul’s intent: our mind, our intellect, our logic is engaged in our spiritual worship.

§  false stereotype of faith or spirituality: “check your brain at the door.” That to believe in God is to be irrational, or abandon logic. Nothing is further from the truth. 2,000 years of apologetics (defense of the Christian faith, from all kinds of attacks and objections).

§  Paul and the apostles began this practice of defending the faith by using our God-given reason and exposing lies and error to the Truth. But that’s a tangent. Point: mind, body, and heart join in intelligent worship—giving our bodies to be a living sacrifice to God.

o   What does it look like?

§  Where has God put you? Who’s around you? Love your neighbors as yourself. Servant with the love of Christ. Sacrificial kindness, goodness, love

§  Christians are “little christs” to those around you. Beautifully unique to your God-given gifts. No “one size fits all” description of how you can best serve your neighbor. But always a living image of Christ. A little reflection in words and deeds.

o   This is why we can’t let ourselves be squeezed into the mold of this world but must allow God to re-mold our minds from within. Our minds again, remind of this intelligent act of worship, a conscious, voluntary giving of ourselves.

§  The squeeze: Peer pressure, media pressure, movies, music and entertainment culture, our education system and the political system—forces squeeze us consciously and unconsciously. And often the unconscious squeezing is the most effective. We absorb the values and ideas of the world, without even realizing it. Selfishness, greed, pride, vanity, sexual immorality, anger, and lies—these all squeeze us into the world’s mold. Shrunken and distorted from God’s good design.

§  How do we stop from being squeezed into worldly conformity? Put our sinful nature and desires to death. Be strong in our new identity in Christ, with an intelligent, robust faith, to resist that outward pressure.

o   God re-molds or transform us from the inside out. God shapes us into His image, renewing our minds. Fills us into His mold—Christlikeness. The full design of God—generosity, humility, self-control, patience, honesty, etc. Fills out and makes us robust and resistant to worldly pressure. Gives us a good heart and mind, renewed in His image.

o   Launched from God’s grace, we have all His resources to resist the “squeeze” of the world, to stand against conformity, and to launch out as living sacrifices to God. Serving our neighbor, supplied by our God-given gifts to help and serve others. So we become a “living sacrifice”—a thankful “praise report” to God for all His mercies in Christ, and an intelligent act of worship in body, spirit, and mind. In Jesus’ Name we live it! Amen.

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