Grab your Bible, and let’s dig into Romans 12 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.
Paul says, “I appeal ... I implore ... I call … Therefore!”
In essence, he is saying, “As a result of what has come before this … based on this foundation just laid …” He is referring us back to chapters 1-11.
What is before? What is the foundation? What do chapters 1-11 teach us? In sum, they teach us about the mercies of God. God has been merciful to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So Paul is saying, “If you have Jesus, if He is your holy Sacrifice and therefore you are brothers (or sisters) in Christ …”
“… Then sit back and wait for heaven, doing whatever you want in the meantime.” NO! NO! NO!
He says, then offer or “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”
Build your lives on this mercy, and your new life will flow out with mercy.
Just look at the rest of Romans 12 and the life that flows out of those who act upon the mercies of God:
Show mercy with cheerfulness
Let love be genuine
Give to the saints
Bless those who persecute you
Weep with those who weep
Associate with the lowly
Repay no one evil for evil
Never avenge yourselves
If your enemy is hungry, feed him
Build your lives on mercy, and become merciful
His mercy produces mercy!
Our testimony, our service, our presence will truly change those He puts in our path.
Brothers, we are not here for ourselves; we are here to sacrifice—to give our lives away for the sake of Christ! We are here for the sharing of His gospel for the good of those He intends to save.
We are called by Paul to “PRESENT our bodies as a living sacrifice.”
Not a sacrifice that will be extinguished or consumed, but a sacrifice that will be refined.
The alter we are called to lay our lives on is not a cold slab of stone but the refining fire of God.
Present your bodies = put your lives in the refining fire as a living sacrifice.
We are not sacrificing as those who are dead in sin but as those who are living in Christ and who are now being made more and more in the likeness of Christ.
What this looks like is just as the faithful in the Old Testament denied themselves an earthly treasure (a goat or a bull) and carried their sacrifices to the altar of blood and fire, so we deny ourselves some earthly treasure or ease or comfort and carry ourselves—our bodies—for Christ's sake to the places and the relationships and the crises in this world where mercy is needed.
This is what causes authentic sacrifice in our daily lives. So I ask you to make it personal today:
How is your submission to the refining fire that produces a living sacrifice?
As God refines you, does it equal more mercies, more forgiveness, more sacrifice in your life?
Do you see more joyful sacrifice in your calendar?
Do you see more joyful sacrifice in your finances?
Do you see more joyful sacrifice in your actions towards others?
This is the life of the Christian: not one who is sitting around waiting to be asked, but one who is submitting himself to the refining fire so that he is actively living a life that is holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship.
God has not just saved us from sin and death but to righteousness and life.
How do we live lives that are holy and acceptable to God as our spiritual worship?
Romans 6:13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
So when Paul says in Romans 12:1 to present a living, holy body to God, he means give your members—your eyes, your tongue, your hands and feet—give your body to do righteousness and not sin.
The refining fire of God produces holiness, obedience to God’s law, submission to God’s will, worship to God’s glory, acts of mercy to the undeserving, acts of sacrifice to the selfish, acts of generosity to the needy, forgiveness to the guilty … This is our spiritual worship.
Look further into Romans 12 to see this at work:
Romans 12:9 Let love be genuine …
You can also translate this from the Greek to say, “Let love be without hypocrisy!”
Hypocrisy = pretending to be a certain way that is not true to who you are in the core of your being.
Christians are famous for this, because when we put the grace and work of Jesus on the back burner, we make our work what is important, and to save face and stay in the club, we put on masks and pretend to be someone we are not.
If you struggle with trying to keep face by not being genuine in this family, realize this: It is impossible to receive love if you are hypocritical, because you will know deep down inside that they are loving the fake you—not the real you.
So how do we love each other genuinely? Without hypocrisy?
You have to grow into Christ. He is the One who firms up your identity to be authentic. He is the One who transforms your love from worldly selfishness to godly other-centeredness!
HOW DO YOU GROW INTO CHRIST? You grow by engaging in gospel community who are pressing and reorienting you into Him.
Romans 12:9b Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Because I love my kids:
I don’t let our toddler taste the Windex bottle because it is a pretty blue and think she won’t like it as soon as she tastes it, so she’ll digest the little bit ok.
I don’t let my teenagers have unfiltered and unaccountable access to the internet or a smart phone because the worst of the world WILL find its way to them in the dead of night or the temptation of a peer to defraud their minds and tempt them to sinful indulgence.
But hear me: Is this not what we as God’s family do all too often to each other?
We stand by idly, watching someone we love struggling and then out of fear and no love at all, we stay distant and say nothing, thinking he or she will figure it out. We think, “I don’t want to cause conflict.”
“Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” This means we should grieve what is evil and we HOLD fast to what is good. Our love should cause us to fight for what is good and stand up to what is evil.
What this means is if we, as club, are not going to be distant and hypocritical, but are going to act in genuine love and mercy, we will pull aside those in our family that are openly practicing sin and say, “I LOVE YOU! I am concerned because what I see you pursuing here, I don’t see in God’s word.”
Realize none of us are immune from this. Eventually, we all are going to need to be confronted. This is life in the body; this is LOVE at work in our family.
You don’t let people you love struggle in things that they can be helped in without at least fighting for them. Realize you are fighting for them! You are not fighting them! You are loving them.
Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
This is not love one another just with deeds. It is saying, “Have feelings for each other.”
The idea is that our heart would leap a little when we are around each other because we are family!
When we are hypocrites, we can pull off the “do” verses, because we can muster up enough to just do what needs to be done.
But the heart is not as easy to change. To love each other from the heart—with our emotions, with that kind of buy in—is a different thing. It is harder to fake it!
I will tell you this, the only way we get to this is when we quit pretending. It has to be authentic. Genuine love is the only way you have and feel brotherly affection.
As I write this, I am overwhelmed at the opportunity before us to live lives of mercy and love for all those God puts in our path.
This is a picture of a life centered in Christ—a life of love and mercy! May it be so.