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East Lincoln Alliance Church

A Reasonable Response

A Reasonable Response
Romans 12:1

In preaching through Galatians this summer, the main thing I think most of us took away was a deeper appreciation for the beauty of the gospel – especially the emphasis that salvation is not something that we must earn – it’s not something that God withholds from us until we meet certain demands – it’s a gift freely given through faith because of God’s astonishing love for us in Christ. One of the clearest explanations of the gospel in Galatians is found in Galatians 4:4-7: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Without Christ we saw in Galatians that we are slaves. We are controlled by the desires of the flesh and bound by sin and guilt, and many of us try to claw our way out by earning God’s approval. We seek to be justified by God through obedience to law and doing works of righteousness, but our efforts don’t erase our sins or take away our guilt; and we keep on sinning, so we become enslaved under the law or a futile religious system. It is a pitiful position to be in.

But the gospel or “good news” that Paul brought to the people in Galatia was that God “sent forth his Son,” Jesus Christ, who became like us in every way in order to “redeem” us – or purchase us out of slavery. He did this by living a perfect life in order to earn our righteousness and then suffering and dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. So he did everything that was required in order for us to be justified before God and the way that we gain access to that is through faith – not by doing good works to try to earn it, but by faith. Through faith we are united with Christ forever and all that he accomplished for us, and in him we are set free from our bondage to sin, guilt, condemnation and religious slavery. We are no longer slaves, but sons and daughters of God, able to know, love and enjoy him forever! Of such a gift there is no equal – it is in a class all by itself – a wonder of wonders that God would save us and give us eternal life…

The question I now want to ask is this: How are we to respond to this incredible gift? In light of this monumental life changing and eternity changing gift we’ve received, how are we to live? That is where the idea for this fall’s sermon series came from – a series that looks at our response to God’s great salvation… Part of our response is to rejoice in Christ and in the wonder of our salvation – we ought to be overflowing with thankfulness and praise to God and overcome by joy. And I think we did a lot of that this summer throughout our series on Galatians. But that is not where our response is to end. We have been called to something more and that’s where we’re headed in the next few weeks… To see how God wants us to live our lives in light of our salvation.

To guide our study I’ve picked chapter 12 of Paul’s letter to the Romans. It’s a chapter that comes after probably the most thorough explanation of the gospel in the whole Bible. In Romans 1-11 Paul explains the beauty of the gospel – very similar to what we just studied in Galatians – but then he goes on in chapter 12 to tell his readers how they should response to it. It’s a chapter that we need to take to heart today as well, so we’re going to begin today and take 5 weeks to see how God wants our new lives in Christ to be. Today we are going to look at the first verse – a very familiar verse for many. It’s a verse that stands at the transition point between the glorious truths of the gospel in Romans 1-11 and the practical application of what we ought to do about it in Romans 12.

Read Romans 12:1.
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.

The significance of this verse in understanding our calling as Christians is enormous – don’t let your familiarity with it cause you to skip lightly over it. This is a monumental, life-altering verse. Paul makes an appeal to his readers here and his appeal is based on something. He uses the word “therefore” and any time there’s a “therefore,” we need to ask ourselves “what is it ‘there for’?” In this case Paul wants his readers to think of what he’s written earlier in the letter – it’s on the basis of what he’s already written that he’s making this appeal.

He also tells them that his appeal is on the basis of the mercies of God – so it’s by the mercies of God written about earlier in the letter that he makes his appeal to them. If you’re familiar with Romans 1-11, you know it contains a staggering view of God’s mercy. In the first 3 chapters, he enlightens them on the wretched condition that all mankind is in because of our willful wickedness and rebellion against God. He concludes that no one is righteous; no one seeks God; no one fears God.

But then he brings in the light of the gospel and begins to describe the mercy of God in Romans 3:23-25: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” In our wretched and sinful condition, God, who is rich in love and mercy, sent forth his Son to suffer and die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And all who receive Christ by faith are justified – they are declared forgiven and righteous before God. This is by his grace as a gift – totally undeserved.

This is the message of God’s mercy that is then expounded upon all the way through Romans 11. And by the end of Romans 11, after writing about God’s incredible mercy that is beyond our comprehension, Paul erupts into spontaneous worship in Romans 11:33-36: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” And that’s where Romans 12:1 comes in – it’s in view of this incredible mercy of God that Paul turns to make his appeal – both to the Romans, and to us as well.

What is his appeal? That they would “present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” So he uses the language and imagery of a sacrifice here, yet with an interesting twist. A sacrifice is something that is put to death and burned to offer a pleasing aroma to God. The point is – a sacrifice is dead. But Paul says that they were to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice that would be holy and acceptable to God. So there’s the idea of death here because of the sacrifice, but there’s also the idea of life because they were to be a living sacrifice – in view of God’s mercy shown to them in Christ, they were to willingly lay down their lives to God by dying to their old way of life and living a new life in service to him. So that’s Paul’s appeal – “Because of the staggering mercy God has shown you, now you offer your lives in service to him.”

And now, look at the final phrase he writes in verse 1: “which is your spiritual worship.” What does that mean? The choice of words in the ESV isn’t helpful, but you probably have a footnote there… What does it say? Mine says, “rational service.” Yours might say “reasonable service.” The original word is defined in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon as: “agreeable to reason, following reason, reasonable.” What Paul is saying is that the appeal he just made for what they are to do with their lives is rational or reasonable – in light of God’s incalculable mercy upon us, our reasonable response is to offer our bodies to him as a living sacrifice. He says the same thing in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Gary Sandmann was here last Sunday and he shared with us the pressure he feels because of the danger he is constantly in down in Mexico. He could be abducted at any time and held for ransom and he could easily be killed. It’s a reality that he lives with every day he’s in Mexico. But even more difficult than that is that his wife is in the same danger, and whenever he leaves her to come into the United States, he’s not there to protect her. He also shared about the difficulty and discouragement he has in trying to learn the Spanish language, and how weary he gets in ministry with all the pressures and demands he faces.

I don’t know if you caught it or not, but do you know what he quoted last Sunday? He quoted the end of Romans 12:1 – that all the pressure and danger he faces and the weariness he feels because of ministry was a “reasonable service” to God. How can that be reasonable?!! How can God expect him to give so much?!! How can he keep pressing on? It’s because Gary is keenly aware of the mercies of God in his life. He understands that his Savior came to this earth and suffered to the point of death on a cross to save him – to save him even though he was a wicked and rebellious person.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

How are we to respond in light of the glorious view of the gospel and God’s mercy that we saw this summer in Galatians? Certainly we should be filled with thankfulness and joy – we should glory in the cross every day of our lives. But it would also be reasonable that we would joyfully and willingly offer our lives in service to God because of his incredible mercy on us, would it not? To no longer live for ourselves, but to live for him who died for us? This is what the Christian life is to be about – a life that is thankfully, joyfully, and willingly offered in service to God. God wants you to use your life – your gifts, your abilities, and your resources to serve him, and to serve him by serving others for his glory.

These are the thoughts that have led me to propose to you that we take some action as a church. It’s easy to hear sermons, agree with them, and then do nothing about it because we’re so busy with our lives. So in order to put hands and feet to this fall sermon series, we’re also going to join together to serve our community for the sake of the glory of Christ. The Evangelism Committee is planning a community service event for the morning of October 14 called “Helping Hands Day.” On that morning we will join together to serve. It begins with serving a free pancake breakfast to people in our community from 8-11am – some of you can serve in that way.

But during the breakfast we will also seek to serve people in a variety of ways based on the gifts, abilities, and resources God has given you, or your family, or small group. My hope is that we will be able to offer a variety of services at the church like you see on the flyer in your bulletin – things that you’re good at and that would help the people around us – car care, health and beauty care, and so on. Or, maybe you could offer a service for a later date – like raking someone’s lawn, or fall yard work – and you could be available to set up appointments for people who come to breakfast on that day. My hope is that many of you will take time that morning to offer your body as a living sacrifice to God. So for the next 3 Sundays you have the opportunity to sign up to do that. Just take the flyer in your bulletin, fill in the bottom portion, tear it off and return it to the church office.

But it’s not just about doing an event. We’re doing this event to show you that God has equipped you with everything you need to serve him with your life and make an impact for the glory of Christ if you will only step out in faith and take some action. This event is only a beginning – a catalyst to awaken you to living a life of service to God every day. We hope that it helps you to be on the lookout for people with needs that you could help. And that serving the Lord will become a way of life for all of us.

So take that flyer, pray about what you might be able to do – I encourage you to join together with family, or friends, or with your small group and consider doing something together – and as God moves you to serve, fill it out and turn it in.

 

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