Good morning! I’m thankful you are here! Welcome to those joining us on the radio as well! What a wonderful day! The Bible tells us that the Lord’s timing is always perfect. He’s never late, he’s never early. He’s always right on time – even when we don’t agree with his timing.
Here’s an example: Who but the Lord could have planned for our sermon on Romans 12 to coincide with our Harvest Festival and the kickoff on fund raising for our new sanctuary? Yet, I could not have chosen a more appropriate text for today’s festivities. Let’s look at the special word the Lord has planned for us this morning! Open your Bibles to Romans 12.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Rom 12:1
Paul spent the first 11 chapters of Romans laying out the truth that God loves us, not just a little but a lot! He’s on our side! But at the same time, we have all been separated from him by our sin and the wages of sin is death. But God refused to abandon us to the judgment our sin required. Instead, he placed the judgment against us on his Son, and he placed his Son’s righteousness on us as a gift of grace to be received by faith.
So how do we respond to this kind of mercy? How do we respond to a gift of love that results in eternal life with God in a brand new perfect world? In Chapter 12 Paul lays out the practical application of how we are to respond to his amazing grace!
Let’s read it together, “In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”
Many times we try to separate our physical self from our spiritual self, but this can’t be done. Body, soul, spirit are one and they all belong to God. We are to bring our whole self to God – that means my good self and my bad self, my body and my mind. I turn the deed to my life over to him, it’s no longer mine but his. Paul says this is what worship really is.
I can come to church every Sunday morning, I can be a spectator to everything that happens here, but that doesn’t make me a worshipper. I can sing the songs, raise my hands, shout “amen” but that doesn’t make me a worshipper either.
The only way to truly worship the Lord is to bring my life, my whole life, warts and all, and lay it before him - then step away empty handed. I must open my heart and invite Jesus to take control. What’s true for us as individuals is also true for us as a congregation.
We can have a great worship band, a faithful preacher, we can walk out of this room feeling spiritually inspired and still not have really worshipped the living God. So how does a person become a true worshipper? Would you agree with me? Let’s read on…
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Rom 12:2
What’s the “pattern of this world”? The pattern of the world is the desire to exalt ourselves – to fulfill our own desires to be a little richer, prettier, smarter, more powerful or talented. And the world, the flesh, and the devil are more than willing to advise us on what we “need to do” to get what we want. When I fall into the trap of life being about me and what I think I need, I am conforming to the pattern of the world.
What’s it mean to “conform”? It means to fit in, to compromise to get where I think I want to go. It means allowing the world to shape me into what it wants me to be. That can happen to us as individuals; it can even happen to us as a congregation. Would you agree?
I heard about a college psychology experiment where the students were instructed to nod off when the instructor moved to the left, but sit up and pay attention when he moved to the right. But the time the class was over, the professor was standing against the wall on the right side of the stage. He had no idea that he had conformed to their manipulation.
The truth is unless God delivers us, we will always be conformed to the pattern of this world. JB Phillips translates this, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” So how can we keep this from happening? Paul says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The word is “metamorphosis”. This isn’t just a change of appearance. It’s a change of substance.
If we are willing to bring our whole self, our whole congregation to the Lord, he can change the substance of who we are and how we think about ourselves. I love how David puts it in Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
The world wants to conform your desires to match its own. It doesn’t need much help. The desires of my heart left to themselves are pretty twisted. But God can transform the very substance of my desires to match his own. Now that’s a miracle!
The Lord can change my heart so that I truly desire what he desires! Are you open to that? How does that happen? “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Rom 12:1
We bring ourselves, the good, the bad, the ugly, the selfish, egotistical, lustful, greedy, resentful, unclean things I am ashamed to even admit to myself, I bring it all and honestly lay it on the altar before him and watch the miraculous things he can do with it all.
Paul continues, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Rom 12:2 People sometimes ask me how they can know God’s will. Let me say right out of the chute, you will never know God’s will until you are willing to make him Lord of your life. As long as you hold him at a distance because you afraid of what he might do, you will either feel you are groping around in the dark trying to find your way, or you’ll feel frustrated and angry because God won’t do things the way you want them done.
So what does the transformed life look like? It looks like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly or dump truck load of soggy peat moss becoming a diamond. It’s beyond comprehension, except for the fact the Lord does it all the time!
Like the Lord did with the prayers of a few women gathered around a kitchen table 100 years ago right here in Whitefish. They asked the Lord to start a Lutheran church here in Stumptown. They could never have imagined Shepherd’s Hand Clinic, Grief Share, the mission trips, the buildings, the outreach that is part of our life today! But the Lord envisioned it. He specializes in calling incredible things into existence out of nothing!
He does the same thing with us as individuals. When we offer ourselves to him, he has a way of bringing out; even creating within us wonderful things we didn’t know existed before. I had a roommate in Bible School who discovered after he became a Christian that he could sing. It wasn’t a hidden talent; it was a non-existent talent before the Lord came into his life.
Paul lists a few things the Lord brings into the lives of those who are willing to offer themselves as living sacrifices before him. Look down at verse 6. The word “prophesy” means to speak a word of wisdom from the Lord. People are in a quandary as to what to do, then someone speaks up with a simple suggestion or maybe even a question and the fog clears away and people say, “That’s it!” That’s the gift of prophesy!
Or serving - I’ve seen the most selfish people become selfless servants when Jesus enters their hearts and they present their whole self as a living sacrifice before him.
Shy people have become bold gifted teachers. Negative fault finders have become tireless encouragers, misers have become lavishly generous, followers have become gifted leaders when Jesus transforms them into something they’ve never been before.
But this never happens until we are willing to let go of trying to fit in with what we think others want us to be – or even what our own ego insists on wanting us to be.
The first thing that needs to be laid on the altar before the Lord is my ego. Our old ego is like that caterpillar or that dump truck full of pond scum. We must bring it to Jesus and allow him to transform it into what he has in mind. A caterpillar must die to its old comfortable life crawling around on the bottom of a lettuce leaf to become something it cannot yet imagine.
How willing are you to allow God to transform you, metamophisize you into the person he created you to be? How willing are you to allow God to transform our congregation into what he has in mind? Let’s read together the theme verse for our sanctuary vision..
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, forever and ever!” AMEN Eph 3:20-21
How does this begin? Paul tells us in Rom 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Rom 12:1-2