Romans 12:1 A Life of Worship and Sacrific (Rev. Erik Veerman)
Rev. Erik Veerman
A Life of Worship and Sacrifice
Our sermon text this morning is from the book of Romans chapter 12. This is the third time we’ve considered Romans.
•Some of you may remember that our very first sermon series was from the book of Romans, chapter 8. COVID was in its early stages, and so Romans 8 provided that clear and helpful foundation to navigate life in a fallen world… and to remind us of God’s unshakeable Gospel.
•After that, we studied the book of Acts, which records the beginnings of the New Testament church. And right after Acts, we went back to Romans and looked at chapters 15 and 16. Acts ended in Rome, and Romans 15 and 16 focus on the church in Rome. And so it was a fitting conclusion
•Now that we’ve wrapped up Zechariah, we’re going to return to another chapter in Romans. This time chapter 12. A lot of this chapter is about the body of Christ – unity and serving and spiritual gifts. I thought it would be a good chapter to consider in our first few weeks of being an organized church.
We’ll start with Romans 12:1. Yes, just one verse. And next week, we’ll focus on verse 2. Then we’ll speed up. These are two very rich and deep verses. I was looking at Dr. Jim Boyce’s commentary this past week. He had 10 sermons just on these two verses. But don’t worry, we won’t go that slow.
Romans 12 can be found on page 1126 of the pew Bible.
Please stand for the reading of God Word.
Reading of Romans 12:1
Prayer – Lord, this is your holy scripture. And we pray through your Spirit this morning that you would plant it deep within us. Uncover areas in our lives that need to be renewed and refined by the truth and grace of your word. That we may each glorify you in all things, that we may be living sacrifices holy and acceptable to you. We pray in the name of Jesus, AMen
Who do you know who’s life is a model of a faithful Christian? Does anyone come to mind?
Someone who seeks to live out their faith in all areas of life; who’s speech is gentle and caring; who desires to honor God 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Someone who takes life’s hurdles in stride. In every difficult situation, God’s Word is the first thing that comes to their mind. They are humble and loving. In their work, they always seek to give God the glory. They pray with and for others. They are peacemakers. They’re not presumptuous but instead gracious.
I know that may sound idealistic, but there are believers in Christ who are such models in these ways. God has refined them over time to become a stable and faithful follower of Jesus in all of life.
Do you know someone like that? It could be someone who is gone from this world like a grandparent, or it could be someone who you talk to every day. Maybe another family member, or a friend, a mentor, a dear saint who has taken an interest in your spiritual life. Maybe you just know of them, but everything you hear fits what I described.
Well, what’s preventing you from becoming like them? What hurdles are in your way and how can you, with the help of God Spirit and grace, overcome those hurdles to become someone like that?
What is holding you back from becoming a faithful, Godly, believer in Christ in all areas of your life? …where the Gospel is a part of every decision and every moment.
I would submit that Romans 12:1 calls each of us to strive toward that kind of life. And it does that by first laying down a foundation - a reason. And then second, calling us to that kind of life – a life of sacrifice and worship to God
Look at the verse for a moment. The first half of the verse is that foundation or maybe a better word is motivation. It says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God.”
And then the second half describes what we are called to. It says, “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
So, let’s work through those two parts. Let me describe them this way:
1. Live a Life Motivated by God’s Gospel Mercies
2. Live a Life Infused with God’s Gospel Mercies
Your life, motivated by God’s Gospel mercies (meaning the Gospel is the reason you pursue a life honoring to God); and your life, infused with God’s Gospel mercies (meaning letting it affect everything – living out the Gospel).
Pretty straight forward.
1. Live a Life Motivated by God’s Gospel Mercies
So number one. Live a Life Motivated by God’s Gospel Mercies.
And let me say, the first half of this verse represents the entire book of Romans. In fact, this is the big transition point in Romans. The book of Romans as a whole can be divided in the two main parts. Chapters 1-11, and 12-16.
Paul was writing to the church in Rome. At the time of his writing, he had yet to visit the church there. He would later, but even before visiting, he still personally knew many in the church from his travels. And he knew that Rome was the most influential city. The church there had been growing, and so he wrote to give them a firm foundation in what to believe and how to live. That’s what his letter to them is about.
And the book is generally modelled after some of his other letters, like his letter to the church in Ephesus and his letter to the church in Galatia. He starts out with what to believe and then how to live based on these truths.
You could say, chapters 1-11 focuses on doctrine and chapters 12-16 focuses on application.
People have described that breakout in different ways. Some have said that the first half of Romans is theology and the second half is application, or the first half is mind and the second half is heart. Well, I don’t like those description for a couple of reasons.
•First, it’s all theology. Theology is what we believe, but part of what we believe is the living out of what we believe.
•Second, I would argue that the first half of Romans is heart. Heart meaning the very center of our lives, what we believe in and trust. It’s our identity in Christ and all that he’s done for us.
I think it’s much better to say that chapters 1-11 give Gospel foundations, and 12-16 give Gospel applications. And let me define that word “Gospel.” In chapter 1, the apostle says that the Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” The Gospel is God’s work, saving us from the penalty and power of sin, through Jesus’s life and sacrificial death and his resurrection. That’s the basics of the Gospel. And God offers it to all and applies it to those who would believe.
And in chapters 1-11, that is all worked out. Paul explains God’s law, the impact of sin going back to Adam, why sin deserves God’s wrath, why Jesus’ death, as God’s son, could accomplish salvation, how the Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus when we believe by faith, how God is sovereign over all of it, how the Gospel goes forth to all people – Jewish people and Gentiles. And how all of it, is by God’s grace.
That’s the summary of Romans chapters 1-11
The reason I’m telling you that, is if look back at chapter 12 verse 1, Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore.” “Therefore” is a critical word here. Therefore means “I just told you something and now here are the implications of that.” And an important question is, is Paul just referring to what he said in chapter 11? Or is he talking about everything he said up to this point? And I believe the answer is everything he said up to this point. Let me give you two reasons:
•First, at the end of chapter 11, the apostle Paul concluded the entire first half of the book with a beautiful doxology. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” It’s a conclusion. He’s giving God the glory for the wonderful way that he has worked out salvation. It’s a fitting end to chapters 1-11. After that ending, it wouldn’t make sense for the “therefore” to be focused only on chapter 11. Rather it makes more sense for it to connect to all of what he wrote.
•The second reason I believe that the “therefore” is referring to chapters 1-11 is in chapter 12 verse 1. Paul says, “therefore, brothers, by God’s mercies.” Or as another English translation says, “in view of God’s mercies.” He connects the “therefore” to all of God’s mercies. The word “mercies” is plural because it’s referencing all of God mercies, which Paul thoroughly addressed in chapters 1-11. Salvation is all about God’s mercies, and the first 11 chapters are about salvation.
That’s what my first point is, “Live a Life Motivated by God’s Gospel Mercies.” The Gospel of chapters 1-11 is the motivation to which chapters 12-16 look. That’s what 12:1 is saying. And it’s a call. Paul begins the verse with “I appeal to you.” The word in the Greek means exhorting and admonishing. In other words, “do what I’m about to say, because of God’s Gospel mercies.” Work it out in your life. Respond to it. Live out the Gospel.
And, by the way, that word “brothers” is not intended to be limited to men, in this context. The noun is in the plural, masculine form, which refers to all people to whom it’s addressed. And because this letter is written to the entire church in Rome, it includes men, women, boys, and girls. And I’ll say, it applies to us as well. We’re not the church in Rome, but we are the church. And so there’s a direct connection to all the church. By the way, isn’t this a lot easier than navigating how Zechariah applies to us?
Let me summarize the first half of the verse. Through the apostle Paul, God is calling all believers to respond to the salvation that God has given us in Christ. It’s not optional!
Live a Life Motivated by God’s Gospel Mercies
2. Live a Life Infused with God’s Gospel Mercies
And that brings us to point #2. How should we respond? What are the implication of God’s Gospel mercies for how we live? Look at how it’s worded. “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.”
Before we get into the details, I titled this point, Live a Life Infused with God’s Gospel Mercies. To infuse means to fill, to permeate, to saturate, or even marinate. Every part of you should be infused with the Gospel. Like you are at the hospital, and you need a life-saving treatment. And they put an IV in you and that medicine is infused throughout your body. It heals and cures you. That’s what the Gospel does. It heals and cures you. And it’s meant to works its way all through you. When you bleed, you bleed Gospel blood. That’s how much it should affect you.
We’re “to present our bodies as a living sacrifice,” as it says. That does not mean only your physical body. Here it refers to your whole being. Everything about you. John Calvin, the great French reformer, put it this way, “By body, he means not only our skin and bones, but the totality of which we are composed… [the connection] of all our parts, for the members of the body are the instruments by which we perform actions.”
We are physical beings, with souls that are connected to our bodies while we are alive. And the call is to be living sacrifices, not dead sacrifices like the Old Testament animal sacrifices. Our lives are to be ongoing sacrifices. The idea of a sacrifice includes the idea of an offering to God. Sacrifices were to be pleasing to God. So your life should be an offering to him, seeking to please him. Furthermore, sacrifices pointed to God and salvation. So, to be a living sacrifice means your whole life is to display the salvation that he’s given you. You are to offer yourself to him and point to the Gospel mercies you have in him. That’s why it actually says, “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” Or “holy and pleasing to God.”
So, we’re to pursue a life that is God honoring; we’re to give up things that are not honoring to God. In other words, we are sacrificing our desires and thoughts that don’t glorify God, and replacing them with desires and thoughts and actions that are holy and acceptable to him.
And the verse ends with one more phrase. Paul writes about being a living sacrifice by saying “which is your spiritual worship.”
That word worship is used in different ways. It’s basic meaning is to express reverence, adoration, and devotion to God. Once sense of the word worship is when we are gathered together for corporate worship, for a worship service. Like what we have been doing this morning. But that’s not the only use of the word. Worship here is not just talking about what we are doing right now, in this worship service. No, the word “worship” in this verse is far more expansive. It means that the totality of our lives are meant to worship God. We are to worship God in all we do. We are to give glory to God in all things because we are a living sacrifice.
The word worship is qualified with the word “spiritual.” “Spiritual worship.” In the Greek, the word for “spiritual” is the same word for “reasonable” and “rational.” The living sacrifice is not meant to be understood as special ceremonial, rather it’s reasonable or spiritual worship worked out rationally in your every-day life. That means, worship at all times and in all situations.
We’re to Live a Life Infused with God’s Gospel Mercies, which effects everything.
That’s why we responsively read the very well known first catechism question of the Westminster confession. What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is… to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
The purpose of our existence is to glorify God and we do that by working the Gospel out in all areas of life.
I think every pastor at some point has use the example of Eric Liddell, the Olympic runner. Some of you may know Eric Liddell’s story very well. Others of you may have never heard of him. I asked my kids if they knew who Eric Liddell was. They said, “Of course, dad, you made us watch the movie!”
They were referring to the 1981 movie, Chariots of Fire. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.
Eric Liddell was an Olympic runner. He ran in the 1924 Olympics for Scotland. Liddell actually grew up in the northern part of China. His parents were missionaries. He was educated in London but his heart was set on being a missionary to China.
But he was also fast. Very fast. He ran on the Edinburgh (Ed-in-bur-ruh) University track team and then ran for Scotland. Liddell was scheduled to run the 100 meter dash at the 1924 Paris Olympics. The only problem was that the preliminary heats were on Sunday. Sunday is the Lord’s day. And as a strong believer, he felt convicted that he should not run on a Sunday. And so, he dropped out of the 100 meter race which he was favored to win.
His commitment to the Lord was greater than his desire to race or win. However, he was given the chance to run the 400 meter race, which was on a different day. It wasn’t his specialty, but he won in epic fashion. I think he broke 3 world records in the two days of the race and he won the final by an unprecedented 3 1/2 yards.
There’s a scene in the movie that really captures Liddell’s life and commitment. The scene was set a few months before the Olympics. Eric is talking with his sister, Jenny. He shares that he has been accepted by the London Missionary Society to serve in China. And Jenny is thrilled. But he says to her that he has a lot of running to do beforehand. And she’s disappointed. She wonderes why he was dedicating so much time to running. She believed he should immediately go to China and serve.
And he says this to her… (now remember, this is the movie based on his life) “Jenny, I believe God made me for a purpose, for China, but he also made me fast and when I run, I feel his pleasure.” Indeed, when Liddell ran, he displayed that pleasure from God and for God. He ran in a very free flowing way with such a joyful expression, his head raised high.
What Eric was telling Jenny is that in all of life he sought to honor and glorify God. Yes, he wanted to serve on the mission’s field, but God had given him this talent and he desired to serve the Lord with it and honor him.
To finish the story, after the Olympics, Liddell did go on to serve in China. He came back occasionally to England for study but spent most of his remaining days in China. He served there during World War 2. But the region where he served was taken over by the Japanese. Eventually Liddell was imprisoned at one of the Japanese camps where he died in 1945 at the age of 43.
Liddell’s whole life was a Romans 12:1 life. He had become so transformed by the Gospel, that it affected everything he did.
Every part of your life and my life is to be a spiritual act of worship before the Lord our maker.
•In our work, we are to honor him.
•In all our relationships, God is to be glorified.
•Whatever we think, say, and do, is to be done with a desire holy and acceptable to God.
•True faith is not a Sunday only faith. It’s an everyday faith from the moment you wake to the moment you sleep.
And that necessarily means identifying areas in our lives that do not glorify God. It means understanding that we each need to change. You need to change. I need to change. We can’t excuse our actions or words because we think “well, that’s the way am.” If you are a believer in Jesus, you are called to conform to the image of Christ…. to “be transformed,” which, by the way, is our subject next week.
That means you need to be constantly evaluating your speech (what you say to others), evaluating your motivations (why you do things), and evaluating your thoughts and action (how you respond to temptations and difficult circumstance).
A couple weeks ago I mentioned to someone that when I was younger, I struggled with anger. That really surprised them. I said, just ask Amy. In fact, 25 years ago, I accidentally punched a hole in the drywall of my office at work. Some technology thing wasn’t working, and I got worked up. That event made me realize that when something didn’t go the way I hoped or planned, I would get very frustrated. I wasn’t submitting it to the Lord, or trusting in his providence. It was painful to realize my sin but by God’s grace it’s been an area of growth.
What areas in your life are preventing you from being that model of Christian faithfulness? …someone who has the Gospel infused all throughout their life?
What is holding you back?
Is it Anger? Lust? Apathy? Control? Are you pursuing things more than you are pursuing God? Is your heart turned against someone who has offended or hurt you? Are your words always seasoned with the Gospel or are they at times biting and sarcastic? Are your thoughts pure and blameless? In your daily activities, are you reflecting the Lord, or are you reflecting your own reputation and pursuits? For married couples, are you honoring one another unto the Lord, or are you trying to win an argument or build up grievances – making a record of the wrongs done to you?
We could be here a long time, couldn’t we? There are many ways in which we are not living sacrifices, not holy, not acceptable to the Lord.
But beloved in Christ, there is one who is the perfect living sacrifice; one who in every area of his life displayed the holiness of God; one whose every thought and word and deed was perfectly acceptable to God; One who sacrificed his life for others, but who lives even now. Jesus is the perfect living sacrifice because as God and as a man, a brother, he could give his life and he could triumph over sin.
He is the one who makes you acceptable before the Lord. He has done that if you believe in him by faith. Or Jesus can make you holy and acceptable before God, by trusting in him by faith. He’s the only one who can. Jesus is the one that Romans 12:1 speaks about. The mercies of God center on Christ, and the mercies of God flow from him and to you.
And if you believe in him by faith, he enables you, through the Holy Spirit, to pursue a life holy and acceptable to God, because you are holy and acceptable to him in Christ.
So live a life motivated by and infused with God’s Gospel mercies BECAUSE God has called you in Christ to be a living sacrifice. All of your life is to be an act of spiritual worship before him.