On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress agreed upon the content of the Declaration of Independence. Two days later, on July 4, the document was signed. We do not know exactly what was said and done the day the Declaration was signed. What we do know, however, is that only John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, and Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Congress, signed the Declaration on July 4th.
Most delegates signed the Declaration on August 2, and one didn't sign it until 1781. Nevertheless, we know that the delegates knew they were taking a major step.
Having declared their freedom, the American patriots had to win it in battle. By signing the Declaration of Independence, the delegates were putting their lives on the line. If they were to lose the war for independence, then the British government would execute them in a very painful and nasty way. Thus, although we do not know if Benjamin Franklin actually said, "we must all hang together, or ... we shall all hang separately," it is likely that that idea was in the minds of the delegates that day in July.[i]
The Founding Father were so keen on the idea of freedom that they were willing to sacrifice to see it become a reality. What are you willing to sacrifice for? The concept of “sacrifice” runs throughout the Bible. To “sacrifice” means to give up something that is valuable in order to help someone else.
Paul, writer of much of the New Testament, has shown that Jesus was sacrificed for our benefit. He gave His life so we could have life. Now that we have life, what are we to do with it? In this series, we are going to consider why and how we should sacrifice our lives for the benefit of others. The life of a follower of Jesus is not an easy life, but it is a satisfying life.
The idea of sacrificing to satisfy sounds foreign. We breathe the air of a culture that says the very opposite—be selfish to satisfy! Or at least, we play it safe and settle for good enough. Let’s not get crazy risky! By nature, we tend to resist God and aim to live for ourselves. But at the end of the day, will that truly result in satisfaction? Let’s consider the value-add of being intentionally sacrificial.
If you have your Bible or electronic device, meet me in Romans 12.
Certainly, to sacrifice is to be committed. What does it look like to be committed to God? Paul will argue that if someone has been truly changed by the gospel then the change will be evident in their behavior.[ii]
The first 11 chapters of Romans has been an explanation of what God has done for us in Christ—the Gospel. The last 5 will show what committed behavior is expected to look like.[iii]
Commitment to God (1-2)
V1—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—Paul “exhorts” or “urges” his readers that based on God’s mercies, we should dedicate our lives to Him.
Our response and motivation should be a response of gratitude because of the grace extended to us![iv]
His language is sacrificial terms. The believer is to offer (present) his/her whole self. And notice that our sacrifice is to be:
Living—new life in the Spirit, rescued from sin and death! Fully at God’s disposal.
Holy—set apart to God alone.
Acceptable (pleasing) to God—God wants us to give him everything we do. We are not to give God the leftovers.[v]
your spiritual worship—or reasonable worship which combines rational thinking and spiritual living.
Tim Keller: “Worship is an act of ascribing ultimate value to something or someone in a way that engages your entire being.”[vi]
What captures your affections? What moves you? Our whole life should be considered an ongoing act of worship. God is part of everything we think, say, and do, and we celebrate Him at every moment.[vii]
Tim Keller: “If what he did does not move you or break the ice over your soul, you must ask yourself if you have ever understood the gospel.[viii]
V2—Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect—In verse 1 Paul describes the what of the Christian life (offer yourself as a sacrifice to God), here in verse 2 he describes the how…[ix]
1—refusing to be conformed to this age.
2—letting yourself be transformed by the Spirit.[x]
Not conformed—pressed into a mold or pattern dictated by the world. Do not let the ways and pressures of this age drive your thinking regarding success, status, pleasure, sex, or worth.
Instead, be transformed into the pattern of God’s will. The idea here is, keep on allowing yourself to be transformed.[xi] It is a process. We are transformed as our thinking is altered.[xii]
How does it occur? By the renewal of your mind—meaning our mindset (set of attitudes or way of thinking) is renewed. This is a lifelong process in which our thinking is rescued from the influence of the world and reprogrammed to care about what God cares about.[xiii]
This is more than just thinking true thoughts, but the governing influence of our minds is reoriented. Our imagination is captured by Christ—He fires our imagination and controls our minds.[xiv]
With a transformed and renewed mind under the control of the Spirit it is impossible to be arrogant and self-centered. What will then be displayed is a mind centered on pleasing others rather than manipulating or using them to please ourselves.[xv] A commitment to God will be displayed with a commitment to His church.
Commitment to God’s Church (3-8)
V3—For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned— Paul makes a call for his readers to evaluate how they present themselves. What is it like to be on the other side of you?
What is your view of self, your attitude, and your outlook of yourself? Don’t overestimate or over value yourself. Make a fair and balanced view of yourself. Don’t overvalue abilities, gifts, worth (either too high/low). Model humility—place others first.
but to think with sober judgment—think straight about ourselves…don’t think less of your abilities than is warranted either. Christ-followers are not to be proud but to have a sober, sane, sensible, and realistic estimate of themselves.[xvi]
It is ok to acknowledge what we are good at and what we can do because doing this makes us able to serve others. Avoid arrogant attitudes; remember each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned—Here Paul means standard, not amount. We are to measure ourselves before God…all the same, regardless of our background or abilities…all saved in Christ…God loves us equally in Christ!
The Gospel prevents us from thinking too high or too low of ourselves. It helps us bring the proper attitude.
V4—For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function—Believers are an interdependent part of a body. We need each other. We are fascinating, we have tremendous diversity within our unity.
V5—so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another— In the church, each member belongs to and needs the other. Note—you are different. Don’t try to be somebody else. Find fulfillment in being who you are.
Know that we are not to be independent operators—we need each other. Different functions and gifts does not make one better or worse. Paul wants his readers to have the proper understanding of commitment to God and His Church.
All gifts are needed to accomplish the mission! At Connect Church our mission as given by God is to connect people to Jesus and others. We are to love God and love others. We are to serve God and serve others!
Kevin Vanhoozer: “The mission of the church is to offer a taste of truth: a personal experience of the gospel, a relationship with Jesus Christ.”[xvii]
We offer a taste of the truth by displaying our commitment to God and others.
1 Peter 4:10 (ESV) As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace—you have a gift and it is important and for the benefit of others!
Paul gives some examples.
V6—Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith— Use your gift! Paul wants us to use our gifts in the proper manner. No gift or ability, spiritual or otherwise, is of value if it is not used! All Christ followers have gifts, no one is left out.
This list is not exhaustive—samples. But in the places that list gifts, all agree: 1) God is source. 2) purpose—build up body to complete the mission. 3) variety.
This passage destroys notion that a Church can be committed to Christ but be inactive in His service. True worship (commitment to God) cannot be divorced from service (to God and His Church).
if prophecy, in proportion to our faith—Not about predicting the future. But speaking God’s Word in God’s Name (preaching).
V7—if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching— ministry; practical service; good at administration. Activities meant to build up the Christian community. The one who teaches, in his teaching—gift of making truth clear and understandable. Has to do with teaching truths of the Gospel—who Jesus is and what He has done for us. It reminds and stirs listeners from lethargy.
V8—the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness— to come alongside and encourage. Includes—advising, pleading, encouraging, warning, strengthening, and comforting (support & inspiration).
The one who contributes, in generosity—carries idea of sincere, heartfelt giving that is untainted by ulterior motive—gives of himself, not for himself. One who shares of their private wealth for the benefit of others and the advancement of the gospel.
the one who leads, with zeal—has to do with presiding and directing…diligently, not casual or careless.
The one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness—people moved to work with the poor, sick, weak, the prisoner, the addicted, elderly…not condescending or patronizing. Paul’s point is that those with gifts should devote themselves to their gift and use it for the benefit of the Church.[xviii]
Identify and develop your gift, so that you can sacrifice and serve God and others. Commit! —to what exactly? Commitment to God is commitment to His church.
These verses (12:1-8) are a succinct summary of the Christian life.[xix]
What does that commitment look like? Let me give you four markers of commitment to God and others…
Serve on a team
Give a percentage
If there is something that is bothering you about Connect Church, smell, lights, etc, commit to helping. Commit to making it better. Commit to taking ownership for your church so you can be proud of it. So proud that you do not want to miss a single weekend. So proud that you want to invite all your friends to come. So proud that you will bug them until they do…you are even willing to sacrifice some of your hard-earned money to buy them lunch if they do come! If you committed fully to God, what would that mean for you, your family, your community?
Nelson Mandela is an iconic figure. Now regarded as one of the world’s great statesmen, he spent decades in prison for his stance against apartheid. He was sentenced in the Rivonia treason trial of 1964. Facing the death sentence, he made this statement to the Court:
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”[xx]
Intentional, sacrificial commitment can change the world…
What are you willing to sacrifice for, to give your life to? What are you willing to commit the rest of your energy and days to see accomplished?
God and His Church are eternal…
Will you commit today?
[i] https://www.historycentral.com/Revolt/stories/Hang.html, accessed 7/3/19. [ii] Grant Osborne, Romans (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 377. [iii]Ibid., 377. [iv]Timothy Keller, Romans 8-16 For You (The Good Book Company, 2015), 101. [v]Ibid., 103. [vi]Tim Keller, IG post, accessed on 7/5/19. [vii]Osborne, 380. [viii] Keller, 106. [ix]Osborne, 380. [x]Ibid., 380. [xi]John D. Harvey, A Commentary on Romans in KEL (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2019), 300. [xii]Thomas Schreiner, Romans, 2nd ed. in BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018), 630. [xiii]Osborne, 381-82. [xiv]Keller, 107. [xv]Osborne, 383. [xvi]Schreiner, 633. [xvii]Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking Understanding (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 56. [xviii]Schreiner, 639. [xix]Osborne, 389. [xx] https://storiesforpreaching.com/category/sermonillustrations/commitment/