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 Ro 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  (NKJV)

Now we come to that part of Romans where we answer the question, “How Then Shall We Live.” How fitting that we should be starting the Frances Schaefer Video series by the same name in our adult Sunday School Class in the near future.  And if I could put in a little plug for that series, I hope you will make an effort to attend. I think you will find it very useful.

But there is also a bit of a dilemma for this pastor as we head into this portion of Romans. Last week, I shared with you how God has been dealing with me regarding my preaching. How I have been long on telling you how to live and short on explaining how such living is possible.

Many times I feel people leave here with the feeling that they are not performing up to God’s standards, or with an attitude of, “what’s the use, God’s standards are way too high” Well they are too high........ for our flesh.

And if you leave here with the idea that Pastor Matz said this is how we are to live as Christians and then try to live that way in your flesh, you will fail and you will be miserable. Now, I cannot stop proclaiming what God says in His Word about how He desires us to live.

But somehow, the Holy Spirit must move us to a spiritual position that allows us to receive that which is preached  because it confirms what the Holy Spirit teaches in His Word.  In short, my preaching is not supposed to drive you to obedience. it is merely to confirm what the Holy Spirit should already be teaching you in God’s Word.

If you are just getting it from me, you are in a lot of trouble. It must come from Him, at most I pray that He uses me as a clarifier or a reminder of what He desires from us, but the bulk of “How then shall we live?” must come from Him as HE speaks to a grateful, born-again heart through His Word.

Hopefully, as we go through these next chapters in Romans, He will use my words only to clarify and remind, and prompt. Hopefully, you have learned by now, that living by these instructions, these do’s and don’ts, has nothing to do with earning your salvation, but they go a long way in proving that you truly are a disciple of Jesus.  

These instructions are only for those who have found their rest in Christ. Only for those who have understood what sinners they are and what a wonderful gift God’s pardon is through faith in Jesus Christ. These instructions are only for those who have committed their lives to Christ, and now, ONLY out of gratefulness to Him wish to demonstrate their commitment through obedience.

Indeed, they are compelled to follow these instructions for no other reason than the realization that as individuals belong to Jesus. They are His and therefore desire nothing more than to please Him.

In the first 11 chapters of this book. Paul has shown us the effects of thankless living. He has shown us the fate of the moralist, the one who thinks he’s pretty good at keeping God’s commandments. He has made it clear that all, Jew and Greek, have sinned and fallen short of God’s standards. All have become disobedient in order that God may show His grace and mercy.

We have seen that the just live by faith, not by works. We live only because we are found in Christ, and we are only found in Christ because by His grace we believe what God has said about Him regarding His death, resurrection, and ascension, and it has been accounted to us as righteousness.

This is where we must be, in order to hear what the Holy Spirit speaks to us in these last chapters. We must be secure in our relationship with Christ. Confident that He has paid our debt and we are free from any kind of demands made upon us by the Law.

I saw a great quote from Martin Luther this week. It read, “ There are only two places sin can be; on the sinner or on Christ. The Law placed it on me, but the Gospel declares that it has been placed on Christ.”

When you really believe the Gospel, you are ready for this next portion of Romans. You are ready for any part of Scripture where God details the Christian walk.  You know, most of the letters of the NT are about how then shall we live, but the NT starts out with the Gospels. That’s no accident. We must receive the Good News of salvation before we can live out our faith.

Paul says, “I beseech you therefore brethren.” The word “beseech is very strong here. It is stronger than the word beg. perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “I hate to see a grown man beg,” well, you would really hate to see a grown man beseech.

This is an urgent plea from Paul and it is connected with the word “therefore” Well, whenever we see the word “therefore” we must go back in context and see what the “therefore” is “there for.”

Paul has spent the last three chapters heartbroken over the his lost Jewish brethren. He even wished that he could be accursed for their sake if it meant a few more would be saved. He made it clear that there would always be a remnant of Jewish believers, and that one of the ways salvation would come to the Jews would be through jealousy. They need tro see what we have and then crave it themselves.

Therefore, he is about to unveil the plan for promoting jealousy, and thereby perhaps spurring on not only the Jews but all unbelievers as they see God’s mercy in action in their lives. Notice too that the plan starts with being a brother. “I beseech you therefore BRETHREN! Get your brotherhood taken care of first before you even think about putting this plan into action.

It starts with receiving the Gospel! Become a kid of the kingdom, by believing that Christ paid for your sins. Receive Him as your Savior. Then and only then are you ready for the next step.

“By the mercies of God.” Let God’s compassions towards you be an impetus for what He is about to ask you to do. Isn’t it interesting that He uses the plural mercies? Why didn’t He just say, mercy?

Because mercy lends itself to speak of the general character of God. mercies lends itself to actual  hands on acts of compassion. Relish God’s merciful character, but just ponder sometime all the tangible merciful acts He brought into play for your salvation story.

And so, God’s not interested in your general character of mercy, (that should be a given anyway) He wants to see some specific acts. It’s not your “general” character that will lead others to Christ, it is the multiple observable mercies extended to others.

Because of God’s mercies to you, He desires that you do the following in order to open the door to such mercies for others................ He wants you to present your body (your physical existence)  a living sacrifice.

Now there’s an oxymoron! Anyone know anything about the Old Testament sacrifices? Uh, one thing they weren’t was “living.” I guarantee you when a sheep left the pen for the sacrifice, he never left by saying, “see you later.”  

So what is God asking here? He’s asking that believers present their bodies a living dead. It’s as Paul states in Galatians:

 Ga 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (NKJV)

So, as a believer, your body is already dead, now God is asking you to PRESENT the new you. The you that has Christ dwelling in you to Him. And as Christ was at the Father’s service, so it is to be for us as well.

This is nothing new or earth shattering. We have seen this attitude demonstrated throughout Scripture. God calls and His people respond. He called Abraham and Abraham said, “Here am I.” He called to Jacob and he said, “Here am I.” Samuel, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, and Mary, (and other singing groups I’m sure)  

But these were people who placed themselves at the disposal of God, and that’s what He’s asking us to do here. And since it is a sacrifice, that mirrors the OT sacrifices, it is to be a daily presentation. A daily presenting of our bodies to His service.

I want you all to do something this week. I want you become a daily living sacrifice to God. Would you first of all agree with God here and say that as one who professes to be committed to Christ, such an endeavor is your reasonable service?  In light of what He did for you on the cross. In light of Him bringing His grace to you and enabling you to believe and be saved?

Furthermore, is it unreasonable to ask you to place your blood bought life into the hands of a loving God? Is it foolhardy to place yourself at the service of an all powerful, all knowing, all loving God? Is it crazy to do the things that He calls us to do in His Word? If it seems so to you, I recommend that you go back and get your position with Christ settled, you are walking in unbelief.. I recommend you go back to the Gospels, and learn who God really is.  

Now, once you have established that it is reasonable to place yourself at His service. Then I want you to follow the Holy Spirit’s advice here and spend some time preparing yourself for the sacrifice. How do you do that? Well how did they prepare the Old Testament sacrifices? They made sure they were spotless. So what does that tell you?

Before you place yourself at the Lord’s service, make sure you are spotless and acceptable to Him. What are we talking about here? We certainly aren’t talking about perfection, but we are talking about confession of sins and receiving His forgiveness and removal of guilt.

Don’t even bother coming to God and placing yourself at His service if you are unwilling to give up your sins. Daily, this week come to Christ and ask for forgiveness, ask for cleansing, then and only then are you ready for service to the Lord. (Holy and acceptable)
Having settled these two issues, willingness and readiness, present yourself to the Lord. Throw yourself on the altar and say “Here I am Lord, what is it that you want me to do today?”  
You might even thank Him in advance for how He is going to use you.

Then take yourself off the altar, (your living remember) and look for opportunities to extend His mercy in all the circumstances that God brings your way that day. That’s your assignment. Young and old. Do it! Not because Pastor Matz tells you to do it, but because the Holy Spirit beseeches you through the apostle Paul to do it!  

Agree that it is reasonable, allow Him to cleanse you, present yourself too Him, and then keep your senses open for the opportunities. Then next week, I want you to share what God did in your life as a result of your living sacrifice. let’s have a great time of testimony next week in this worship service.

I guarantee you, that if you do these things, God will show up in your life this week. He is looking for ways to make others jealous over your relationship with Him. He longs to give you opportunities to express your love and loyalty for Him.   And He longs to reward you for that loyalty.

 2Ch 16:9 "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (NKJV)

 Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

They are out there! And acting in faith on Romans 12:1 you will find them. They have been prepared beforehand for you. And each one of our lives ought to be like a daily sanctified scavenger hunt. Looking for opportunities to extend the Lord’s mercy and grace to others.  

Yes you are going to miss opportunities, you may be blinded or preoccupied with something of this world, or your flesh. Or you may even be a little scared. Yes you may drive by that fella struggling with the mattress, but that is no cause to give up.......just ask forgiveness and press on! Present your body again and look for the next opportunity.

Oh the praise reports I am anticipating hearing next week as the Lord works through you in the lives and circumstances of others!

Listen again to the Holy Spirit, “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”