Richard Foster begins his book, Celebration of Discipline, with these challenging and penetrating words:
“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people or gifted people, but for deep people (Page 1, Harper & Row, Publishers; San Francisco, 1978).”
It seems that nowadays, we can be pulled in so many directions with responsibilities, relationships, commitments, and pressures that we feel a hundred miles wide and an inch deep. Very often, the activities we are involved in are worthwhile, even Church activities, but something is missing. We’re moving from event to event, place to place, person to person, but we lack a sense of purpose; we lack a sense of real commitment.
At the same time, we know all too well that commitment can be very real in people’s lives, but it can be misdirected. Our commitment may be to the wrong thing or cause or just to ourselves. Examples: Making money, being respected or famous, etc.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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." [Romans 12:12 NIV]
This text presents an authentic call to total dynamic commitment. These words of the apostle are words of exhortation to us. And to help us fully appreciate them, I want us to consider:
I. The Authentic Call that We Need to Hear
II. The Dynamic Commitment We Need to Make
These words in our Scripture are literally at a turning point or a major transition point in this letter. These words may also mean a major turning point in our lives today.
Paul says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer you bodies….” Paul has gone to great lengths to defend his gospel and ministry in this epistle. He was called, separated, and graced with an apostleship and mission to the nations.
The first part of his letter explains how God has made it possible to have a right relationship with Himself. Yes, a Just-peace has been made through the sacrificial death of God’s Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, man can be forgiven of sins and declared right before a righteous God. What a message!
We need to be reminded of the greatness of the gospel.
Paul moves man’s problem (condemnation), to God’s provision in Christ which results in our justification, sanctification, glorification, and ultimately God’s vindication.
There are many other gospels around that call for allegiance. There are a lot of calls for commitment. This call is backed by authentic gospel ministry. Therefore, it is worth hearing and heeding!
The text reads, “in view of God’s mercy.” The manifest abundant mercy of God should be before us as we consider His call. Understand that this call for total dynamic commitment is not a call for merit or favor with Almighty God. This call is in the light of His mercy towards us. I’ve heard mercy defined as “not getting what we deserve.” Paul has made that plain in the earlier part of the letter. All men are sinners and fall short of the glory of God. We deserve wrath, judgment, and eternal death. But God has chosen not to give us what we deserve. He has mercifully forgiven us through faith in Christ, justified us by faith, and given us the certain hope of eternal life.
This commitment we will be viewing is based on mercy. We can’t merit God’s love, but we can thank Him for it by committing ourselves to Him at the deepest level. The greatness of God’s mercy should always impact us to respond.
Illustration: So great is the mercy of our God, who sacrificed His own Son to welcome those who rebelled against Him.
In chapters 12-15, Paul goes on to talk about our responsibilities in the church and in society at large. But, before he deals with those specific commitments, he challenges us to this level of deep commitment we will be considering.
Remember, God wants you, not just what you have to offer.
Illustration ➡️ Marriage
Let the Apostle Paul’s challenge be God’s challenge to our hearts today.
This commitment is presented in 2 main parts or movements. The commitment involves Dedication (Sacrificial) and Transformation (Radical).
Paul uses the language of offering a sacrifice. This language was very familiar in the ancient world. Some thing to keep in mind is that what was given in sacrifice was not taken back. It was given once and for all.
Practically speaking, we may need to dedicate and re-dedicate ourselves time and time again, but our intention should be once for all – given, yielded, dedicated to God for His pleasure and service. Let’s look carefully at this sacrifice, I’m asking you to make this morning.
Paul is speaking in the plural term, meaning everyone. There was not to be some group of spiritual elite people who were “the committed.” No, all were to respond to this challenge.
Note that the sacrifice was to be specific.
God wants you – that person, that real self, not some thoughts, or a few feelings. Young person, God wants you. He made you. He bought you with the blood of His own Son. That means that your body is God’s; You can’t be more specific and practical than what you do with your body.
Note that the sacrifice was to be complete
All of you – everything on his altar.
The Whole of the Pie Chart – (No intentional holding back of any part of our lives)
Illustration: David Livingston, the great missionary to Central Africa penned these words in his diary on his birthday. “My Jesus, My King, My Life, My all, I again dedicate my whole self to thee. Accept me and grant, O gracious Father, that ere the year is gone I may finish my work. In Jesus name, I ask it. Amen!” Archibald Naismith writes, “A year later his servants found him (D.L.) dead upon his knees.” Vol 2. P134 (596)
(2400 Outlines, Notes, Quotes, and Anecdotes for Sermons Grand Rapids: Baker Book Home, 1967, 1975).
In contrast to this specific and total dedication – of our bodies, think of the following…
God, I’ll give You my Sundays! not my week?
I’ll give you my hands! not my heart?
No, this is a sacrifice yielded to God that is to be totally consumed.
You’ve heard the expression, “I’ll be with you in spirit.” What does that mean? Well, “bottom line” it means that I’m interested, but I won’t actually be there. This is not a spiritual sacrifice above, this is a practical flesh and blood on the altar of God sacrifice.
Note that this sacrifice is to be corporate – bodies is plural; sacrifice is singular
For all Christians, not a few committed Christians
Now consider the sacrifice and the requirements:
God wants you now in your daily living. This is not the dead sacrifices of the ancient world, this is you alive on God’s altar, given to him.
Paul may have something more in mind, also. He uses similar language earlier in Rom. 6:11-13. It is those who are truly alive in Christ that can offer this sacrifice we’re talking about. Are you really alive in Christ this morning? Can you offer God a “living” sacrifice?
But this leads to the second requirement:
You would expect this word in relation to a sacrifice in the O.T. times. A Holy God demands and deserves a Holy sacrifice.
Well what does that mean for us today? See, 1 Peter 1:13-16. We are to live holy lives.
Holiness according to Stephen F. Olford is a:
Paul is just stating that we must consciously seek to live out our lives in a way that pleases our wonderful God. This leads to the third requirement:
This is the bottom line. Are we living lives pleasing to God? This is the question that should guide in all the other commitments we have and face.
Am I pleasing God in each area of my life? Am I pleasing God at this time? Am I pleasing God in each relationship? Am I pleasing God in my activities? At home, at work, at church, in public, in private, etc.?
These are challenging questions, but we’re talking about commitment. It doesn’t get any more personal than this.
Illustration: Malachi 1:6-11 – Unacceptable sacrifices.
There is to be a complete Godward focus for all of our life
God made us to worship. Paul begins this letter by showing how man has “worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator.” But, God in His mercy has made it possible for us as forgiven sinners to Worship Him as we ought.
The NT speaks of at least 4 sacrifices we can offer as worship.
1. The Sacrifice of our lips (Hebrews 13:15)
2. The Sacrifice of our gifts (Phil. 4:18)
3. The Sacrifice of our lives (Rom 12:1)
4. The Sacrifice of our Service and Good deeds (Hebrews 13:16 & Phil. 2:17)
God deserves and desires who we are before we can give him what we say or what we have. All are important, but he wants you this morning.
Application. – No Rivalries, No Idolatries, rather Your Complete Dedication
“Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any ties but the tie that binds me to thy service and to thy heart.” Dr. D. James Kennedy, The Secret of Commitment Coral Ridge Ministries P.O. Box 40, Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. 33340
In our text a process of transformation/metamorphosis is described and then the purpose/result of this transformation is given.
- This is exciting
- This is radical
Christians are committed to change = being conformed day be day to the image of God’s Son
1) The Process of Transformation
(1) Negativity Speaking – there is a rejection of the world – we are not to be conformed to the pattern of this world/age.
Paul is speaking of the natural world outside of God, which rebels against God. There is a pattern, a life-style, a direction of life that we are to forsake, to deny. Time does not allow us to describe the “thinking” of our world. But we need to be aware of the “mind-set” of the “age,” and resist being squeezed into its mold.
Illustration: We naturally love to fit in. We feel peer pressure. We fear rejection for being different. We must resist the gradual drift into a non Christ-like lifestyle.
[Ephesians 4:17] Do not conform any longer
App: Put off old man, put on the new man
- Old man
People want their choices without guilt. We are to be committed to choices within His will and pleasure.
Application: Don’t be taken in by the glamorizing of sin. Just say “No.” Psalm 1
“Even small inconsistencies are dangerous. Little thorns make great blisters, little moths destroy fine garments” – C.H. Spurgeon, Morning/Evening, p.577 (Zondervan, 1962)
(2) Positively speaking – there is a renewal of the mind. (See Colossians 3:1-11)
The Process of Transformation requires the renewing of the mind.
Paul does not give details here as to how this renewal takes place. But from within this epistle and the rest of Scripture, I believe we can fill in some details. Note that we are to be transformed. We can’t do this. We don’t just do this on our own. This is something that God wants to bring about if we will be committed to it.
Let me mention two practical aspects to this transformation
- Obedience to the Word of God
Paul says in Romans 6:17
“But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching – to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
As we count on the truth and obey it, we will be changed.
- Yieldedness to the Spirit of God
We can’t obey on our own. We need God’s help. We need to be open to the Spirit. This involves a definite act of the will and a daily attitude of the mind saying, “God, I can’t, you can.” God, I want to be more like Jesus today than yesterday.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
Read Romans 8 and see how the Spirit is involved in putting to death the old sinful ways (8:13) and helping us live as we should (8:14-17).
2 Cor. 3:17-18 speaks of moving from one degree of glory to the next. The same word for transformation is used here as in Romans 12:2.
You may be thinking –
Well, there’s not much glory in my life. Well, let Him work on You.
Recognize that it’s a process. Move on from day to day.
But, we must be committed to total Personal Transformation for this to happen.
Application: old attitudes, habits, and sins must be put away. There must be a commitment to change. And change is not always easy. It takes commitment and determination, especially if there is habitual sin and its effects in our lives.
Don’t focus on the outward change that time will take care of anyway. Focus on the inward change that God wants to produce. The Lord wants it. You need it. Your family needs it. Your church needs it.
Ill. Exercise programs often advertise by showing “before” and “after” pictures to show the change. As we grow in Christ, there should be a change towards Christ-likeness. It is not necessarily an outward change, but it is just as real.
“…Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Paul’s word translated “test and approve” in our text is very intriguing. It is the person who is dedicated to God and committed to His transformation that will be able to “know” God’s will. And I believe Paul is thinking not of some academic understanding, but a knowledge of God’s will that leads to an experience of God’s will.
And God’s Will is
Someone may be thinking, this is not for me. It costs too much. But, let me challenge you and encourage you by saying this morning that it costs too much not to be committed to the Lord is this complete way
Why? Because you don’t want to miss out on Paul’s concluding thought here.
Total Authentic Dynamic Dedication and Transformation
leads to the discerning and discovering of the Will of God in our minds and in experience. And Paul says beautifully and completely that that Will, God’s plan for us, is good, acceptable and perfect. You do not want to miss out on God’s best for You.
Offer Prayers of Commitment today
Hear this call to surrender afresh to Christ
- In the light of the truth of the gospel
- In view of the mercy of God
- In light of our responsibilities as a believer
Present Yourself to God – Your life alive in Christ, holy unto the Lord, and fully pleasing Him.
Surrender to His plan for you as He seeks to transform you as you say “no” to the world and allow your mind to be renewed by God through His word and Spirit.
This fresh commitment will lead to knowing and being able to live according to the will of God.
List: From Floyd McClung’s Book, Neil Anderson’s Teaching
3. Demanding Spirit
6. A Critical Attitude
8. Envy and Greed
9. Lack of Forgiveness
10. An Unteachable Spirit
11. People Pleasing