Wholly Devoted to God
Hope in Christ Bible Church 1/7/18
What a joy now as fellow worshippers of the living God to turn our hearts to His Word.
Over a month ago the Lord put on my heart a desire to preach a special series at the beginning of this year focused on being all He would have us be as His church.
There are so many possible texts. But one especially captivated my heart from the epistle of Romans. It’s a text I have looked forward to preaching for many years…and I believe now is the time.
Because it calls us as Christians to live with total dedication to Christ… and it shows us how!
I have heard many of your testimonies of how Christ saved you. Just this past Wednesday evening, Craig Adams shared in our CARE group how God rescued him from religion and gave him a living relationship with Christ.
Many of you have been Christians a number of years, some of you several or more decades.
However long it has been, let me ask you:
Have you settled into the spiritual doldrums?
In other words, have you become satisfied and complacent in your Christian life?
Or does your life hint of what some have called a spirit of “arrogant arrivedness?”
All of us settle at a certain level of Christian commitment. We plateau. And the unstated outlook is, “This is where I am at spiritually, and I am quite content to stay here.”
Yet, child of God, your heavenly Father calls you to move on from spiritual stagnation.
Someone put it well, “God loves His children far too much to let us stay as we are.”
Yes, He lovingly desires to catapult us out of our status quo Christianity to live radical lives dominated by Him in every area.
And the book of Romans does just that. It’s God’s megaphone to rouse us from Christian complacency and show us how to live to the hilt for His glory.
Now, hang on tight as I give you a 10,000 foot panoramic view of Romans then segue to our text in chapter 12.
It was toward the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, around 56 A.D., that he, through his personal secretary Tertius (Rom. 16:22), wrote this letter.
The first readers of this letter Paul calls (1:7) “the beloved of God in Rome” These are the true Christians in the first church in that capitol city of Italy.
This letter gives us the preeminent doctrinal work in the Bible. In fact, the overarching theme of Romans is- how can a person be sure he is right before God?
Answer- the gospel. You have to embrace the true gospel. That’s why Paul exclaims in Romans 1:16–17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
Don’t miss that for your life! The righteous person is the one who through faith in Christ has been justified by God.
Romans 5:1 so aptly summarizes how that works in salvation: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Repentant faith in Christ results in a righteous life from God that pleases Him. That means you are saved!
Now, watch how this treasured treatise unfolds.
Chapter 1-3:20 describes man’s depravity
Then in 3:21- end of chapter 11 we are given the way of deliverance
Finally, from 12-16 Paul calls us to lives of devotion to God.
So, you can remember this helpful outline to Romans in 3 D: Depravity, deliverance, and devotion.
Now as we zoom in on chapter 12, we find Paul showing us how to live right in 3 relationships. In our relationship with God (verses 1-2), in
our relationship with other believers (3-13) and in our relationship with unbelievers (even when they act like enemies) (14-21).
Now prepare your heart and follow along as I read what God calls you to in your relationship with Him.
Romans 12:1–2 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
This monumental text calls us to dedication (v.1) that results in transformation (v. 2). Let’s begin with the call to the
A. Dedication of our lives V. 1
First, Paul really comes at us and grabs our attention, when he says “I urge you.”
It’s not a cold command from a drill sergeant.
And it’s not a spineless suggestion from some wallflower.
He’s uses a compelling term (parakaleo) from which we get our word paraclete used to describe the Holy Spirit. For he comes along side and helps us (that’s the idea of the word).
So Paul comes along side us as Christians and is saying, “I plead, appeal, exhort, I beg of you brethren….to lock into what I am going to tell you.”
Now here’s what’s fantastic. Before Paul describes something massive we are to embrace, he motivates us.
Notice it in your text. See that word “therefore”?
It marks a key transition. For it reaches back and gathers up all that has been said up to this point.
By the way, there are at least 25 “therefores” in Romans. Four of them transition as chapter markers.
In Romans 2:1 Paul gives us the sad “therefore” of condemnation. “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge
another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”
Then as we noted in Romans 5:1 follows the sweet “therefore” of justification by faith.
The first word of chapter 8 then gives us the special “therefore” of assurance: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
And now beginning chapter 12 is the “therefore” of dedication.
Based on the glorious doctrine of the first 11 chapters, now we see what is to be our great duty and delight before God.
This is the ultimate, “How shall we then live?”
The spiritual I. Q. must lead to the spiritual I Do!
Now, you need to see what it is our therefore specifically ties to.
Look what follows. “I urge you therefore, brethren (Paul says), by the mercies of God….”
What are God’s mercies? They are all God does to show His great care for us. Up to this point in this letter, Paul has showcased many examples of God’s mercies. Take for example that God has:
– Lead us to repentance by His kindness 2:4
– Redeemed us by His grace 3:24
– Forgave us our sins 4:7
– Spared us from His wrath 5:9
– Gave us eternal life as a free gift 6:23
– Saved us from the curse of the law 7:4
– Indwelt us with the Holy Spirit 8:9
– Assures us that “whoever believes in Christ will not be disappointed!” 10:11
Now look back 7 verses (Romans 11:30) at the great demonstration of God’s mercy to include not only Jews but also Gentiles in salvation.
“For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.”
What a merciful God who offers mercy to all with zero discrimination!
Friend, if you have been rescued from the jaws of sin and hell and redeemed by Christ’s blood, then you know how God has been so merciful to you.
And you love to piggy back on Paul’s outburst of praise. Verse 33, what a doxology:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
So Paul leverages God’s great mercy here to motivate us to full obedience. For deliverance from damnation demands devotion!
One day an Austrian nobleman, Nicolaus Zinzendorf, strolled into a small church.
His eyes were drawn to painting of the crucified Christ hanging on the wall.
As he looked at it, he could tell the artist who painted the picture was flooded with love for his Savior.
For underneath the picture of the suffering Christ, the artist had penned these words: “All this I did for thee, what hast thou done for Me?”
Gazing at the picture and again at the question below, Zinzendorf could not restrain the tears.
For he knew he had such a debt of love to show His Savior. From that little church he went forth to become the leader of the great Moravian missionary work so mightily used by God.
Beloved, we too, because of God’s infinite mercy to us in Christ, we stand so deeply indebted to Him.
It’s like a father giving his undeserving son a brand new car and saying, OK, based on this big gift, I expect you to use it in a way to please me!
So too, fellow believer, let the mercies of God compel you to live fully abandoned to Him.
You say, “but how? What does dedicated living look like in action?” Answer: “present your bodies to God.” That’s what Paul tells us. Living with dedication to God is as practical as what we do with the bodies God has given us. For these are the instruments we use to carry out our purposes.
So, let’s be clear on this. What you do with your body is a big deal to God!
Before people come to Christ they think their body belongs to themselves.
And what do they do? They use the body for selfish and sinful purposes.
But everything changes at salvation including how are to use our bodies.
Now, I want us to dig into 4 aspects God gives for how we must present our bodies to God.
First, Paul says you must present your body as a sacrifice that is 1. living.
In fact, he takes those words “present” and “sacrifice” from special terms used to describe animal offerings placed on an altar.
Now think of the bulls and goats and turtle doves- what they had in common is that they had all been killed.
Yet in contrast to such dead sacrifices, Christian, God wants you to offer your self to him as a living sacrifice!
Secondly, your body is to be a sacrifice that is 2. holy.
It is to be an offering that is set apart from sin and pure before God.
The prophet Malachi became alarmed when he saw what the priests were presenting to God: blemished sacrifices.
And he calls them on the carpet saying, (Malachi 1:8) “But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts.
Here’s the point. Don’t think God turns a blind eye to a dirty life. No, He is deadly serious about us dealing with sin in our bodies.
That’s why the apostle warns: I Cor. 6:18–20 “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
In Exodus 29, there is a vivid picture of presenting our entire body to God. The high priest Aaron, and his sons, would take blood of the sacrifice and put it on their right ear, right thumb, & right big toe.
What a reminder that their whole body was to be consecrated to God.
Fourth century church leader John Chrysostom asked, “How can the body become a sacrifice? He answers: “Let the eye look on no evil, and it is a sacrifice. Let the tongue utter nothing base, and it is an offering. Let the hand work no sin, and it is a holocaust. But…we must [also] actively exert ourselves for good; the hand giving alms, the mouth blessing them that curse us, and the ear ever …[ready] for listening to God.”
He’s right. All the members of our body are to be yielded and used for God.
Yes, God call us to a decisive dedication of our bodies to Himself.
Thirdly, your bodily sacrifice is to be: 3. Acceptable to God
Friends, your Christian life must be lived ultimately before God as your audience of one. Your consuming ambition must be that your life will be well-pleasing to God. That was Paul’s:
2 Corinthians 5:9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
But it’s not only to be that way for the apostle. He writes later in Romans 14:7 “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”
So, a great evaluative question that should surface in your mind throughout the day is, “Am I doing right now what pleases God?” And specifically, “Is my eating, resting, sleeping, working, talking, listening, looking- does that please God?
Fourthly, God expects the sacrifice of your body to be: 4. Worshipful
Let’s put it together here and get the cumulative impact of verse 1. Based on God’s great mercies, you are urged to present your body as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God,” which we are told, “is your spiritual service of worship.”
Remember when we went through John 4 together of Christ speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well?
She, like most of her peers, lived confused about worship, thinking it was the place that mattered most.
Yet Christ put his finger on the heart of worship saying, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”
Wow! The Father actively seeks worshippers. Worshippers who worship in spirit (with hearts for Him) and according to His revealed truth.
And so it is that God seeks for you to worship him that way with all your life.
You see, worship for the Christian doesn’t just start at 10:45 on Sunday morning and end when you head home.
When your body is surrendered to Christ, every hour is to be a worship service to the Lord.
Yes, your entire life, child of God is to be an act of spiritual worship to Him.
David Brainerd, in the 1700s served as a missionary the Native American Indians of New Jersey.
He gave himself wholeheartedly to the work and died at the age of twenty-nine. His life exuded wholehearted dedication to God. Brainerd once said to Jonathan Edwards:
“I do not go to heaven to be advanced but to give honor to God. It is no matter where I shall be stationed in heaven, whether I have a high seat or a low seat there. My heaven is to please God and glorify Him, and give all to Him, and to be wholly devoted to His glory.”
And on another occasion he declared, “I have received my all from God. Oh, that I could return my all to God!”
That’s the heart, soul, and body of longing for all our lives to worship God.
It’s fully handing over ourselves to the Lord in every situation. It’s making up our minds that all we have. All we are, and all we do- all that belongs to God and must honor Him!
I read a brief story of an English queen who made it her practice to visit Scotland every year. She often mingled with the people without a protective escort.
One afternoon while walking with some children, dark clouds came up unexpectedly.
So she stopped at a nearby house to borrow an umbrella.
So she said to the lady who answered the door, “If you will lend me one, I will send it back to you tomorrow.”
The woman didn’t recognize the Queen and was reluctant to give this stranger her best umbrella.
Instead, she handed her one she intended to throw away. The fabric was torn in several places and one of the ribs was broken.
The next day came another knock on the door. When the lady opened it, she was greeted by a royal guard holding her old, tattered umbrella.
“The Queen sent me,” he said, “and asked me to thank you for loaning her this.”
For a moment the woman was stunned, then, she burst into tears. “Oh, what an opportunity I missed,” she cried. “I didn’t give the Queen my very best!
How much more does the King of Kings, the God of all mercies deserve our lives, our souls, our all!
The dedication of our bodies leads to the
B. Transformation of our lives. V. 2
The first phrase “and do not be conformed to this world” comes as a wake-up call to us.
“Conformed” here denotes being squeezed and conformed to a mold.
When mom’s pour jello into a mold what happens? Soon, it takes the shape and pattern of that mold.
So too, we as Christians can so subtly begin to resemble the look of the godless world around us. We become influenced by popular opinion, the aims, aspirations and impulses every time we breathe in the immoral atmosphere around us.
Yes, our thinking and living so easily becomes formed by the secular culture around us.
In Japan, farmers grow special watermelons that have a perfectly square shape. How?
Very easily! By placing the young melons into tempered-glass cubes while they are still growing. And with time, those melons take on the very square form!
Now that might be fine for watermelons, but it’s disastrous Christian to be molded and formed by the spirit of the fallen age.
God sees in our lives when we become patterned by the world rather than His Word.
And He wants us to see our love for material things, our craving for acceptance, our desire to be in control, our passion for sensual pleasures.
He says to us, “Stop letting the world squeeze you into its mold.
Let’s be specific. You can’t listen to godless music without being conformed to the world.
And you can’t put filthy images before your eyes and listen to God’s name being taken in vain without being shaped by the world.
And you can’t hang out just to have fun with unbelievers and not be stamped by their godless living.
And you can’t indulge in suggestive and explicit conversations (including what you read) without being conformed to the world.
But some might say, “But I enjoy the way of the world.” In my heart of hearts, that’s how I want to live. Well, here’s where that leads. “The form of this world” I Cor. 7:31 tells us, “is passing away.”
Therefore John in his first epistle (2:15–17) pleads, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
It’s so clear. You can’t keep one foot in the world and truly belong to God.
Yet the child of God knows the world has nothing lasting or satisfying to offer.
And God says to you, “Stop! If you are my child quit following the dictates of the god of this world and being shaped by its pattern.”
But how can the world and all its carnal allurements become less enticing to us?
Look what follows (v. 2): “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Friends, God here gives us a powerful remedy for compromise with worldliness. It’s an ongoing process to which we submit in our thoughts.
It has been estimated that we think about 10,000 thoughts a day. The fact of the matter is, If you never learn to control your thoughts you will never be able to control your life.”
Our minds must be reprogramed by a love for God and His truth. This is nothing less than loving God with all our minds!
It’s what 19th century Scottish theologian Thomas Chalmers called, “the expulsive power of a new affection.”
Church, the difference between a life of wickedness and a life of worship starts first and foremost in the mind. It’s what you entertain in your thoughts.
Listen to how Romans 8:5–6 drives this home: “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the
things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”
How do you get your mind on the Spirit?
This is not just some quick fix or superficial makeover. It’s not by trying to change yourself- for you can’t!
First, you must be certain you possess God’s Spirit and have the mind of Christ.
That comes only through repentance from sin- that’s a change of mind about your sin and trusting Christ to save you. It’s surrendering your life to Christ as both your Savior and your Lord to obey.
That’s when God radically changes our life, our desires, yes and our worldview. We no longer value what the world values but what God values. We no longer look at life through the world’s glasses but through the truth of God.
And that leads us to, for the Christian, you need your mind to be constantly renewed by God’s Word. “Be transformed” shows we can’t transform ourselves but let God transform us.
That renewal is the supernatural metamorphosis that God does in changing our thinking and living as we feed our minds with His truth.
That’s the great encouragement of 2 Cor. 3:18 for us: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
That was the heart of our Lord’s prayer for us:
John 17:16–17 “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
God’s truth is God’s Word that renews our mind. That’s why Moses begged God’s people: “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul (can be translated “mind”)….” Deut. 11:18
You see, that’s the problem of going to the world, even some website for advise and counsel. They mess up your mind. Because they like all unbelievers Christ says are of their father the devil who was a liar from the beginning (John 8:44).
When we say “no thank you” to the squeeze of the world by the world and our transformed by renewed minds, we live at the center of God’s best for us and His honor.
And the result, so wonderful is that we “prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
In the secular Greek culture, they would prove by testing whether metals were pure or not.
So too, when we yield ourselves fully to God as living and holy sacrifices not conformed to the world but transformed by Christ, we will reflect the perfect plan of God at work in us.
Then we will experience as it were heaven on earth- to live lives of acceptable worship with every fiber of our being.
Frances Havergal in the mid 1800s showed great dedication in living for her Lord.
She once visited some acquaintances there in England for 5 days. There were ten people in the house, she visited, some of which were not yet saved. Others were not living a life of surrender to the Lord.
So, she begged God to work in all their lives and prayed, “Lord, give me all in this house!”
And He did. He overwhelmed her with such joy from transforming their lives that she could hardly sleep the final evening of her visit.
Instead the following lines flowed from her heart to God. May they reflect our response for all of God’s mercies:
Take my life, and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee; Take my moments and my days, Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move At the impulse of Thy love; Take my feet and let them be Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing Always, only, for my King; Take my lips, and let them be Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; Not a mite would I withhold; Take my intellect, and use Every power as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will, and make it Thine; It shall be no longer mine. Take my heart; it is Thine own; It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love; my Lord, I pour At Thy feet its treasure-store. Take myself, and I will be Ever, only, all for Thee.
We bless Your name for all the mercies You have shown to us in Christ. May we in response live for you alone. My our bodies, our minds, our entire lives be ever, only, all for You. Help us recognize and jettison alien thoughts. Cause us by your Spirit to destroy speculations and every lofty thing raise up against you and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
Keep us we pray from being molded by the world and cause us to be shaped by Your Word.
May all of our lives be a pleasing sacrifice of worship to You we pray in Christ’s name, amen.
Wholly Devoted to God
Hope in Christ Bible Church 1/7/18
Intro. Rom. 16:22, 1:7, 1:16-17, 5:1
A. Dedication of our lives V. 1
Rom. 2:1, 5:1, 8:1
3. Acceptable to God
B. Transformation of our lives. V. 2
I Cor. 7:31
I John 2:15–17
2 Cor. 3:18
God, how would you have me be a doer of Your Word and offer myself to you as a living sacrifice?
Wholly Devoted to God