Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday Morning Devotional for Men's Retreat

2013 Calvary Baptist Church-- Men's Retreat
Romans 12:1-2
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. 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.

Lesslie Newbigin states, “The Christian story provides us with such a set of lenses, not something for us to look at, but for us to look through.”1 Paul says as much in Romans 12:1, when he looks back on his rich exposition of the doctrine of justification in chapters 1–11 and states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices.” Scripture teaches that the gospel creates an entire way of life and affects literally everything about us. It is a power (Rom 1:16–17) that creates new life in us (Col 1:5–6; 1 Pet 1:23–25).2
It is just and proper that we should love, worship and reverence him by whom we have been redeemed, and from whom we have received the greatest benefits, and that we should declare our love and gratitude by our obedience and good works. God deserves our obedience and worship on account of the benefits which he confers upon us. We do not merit his benefits by anything that we do. Hence our gratitude, which shows itself by our obedience and good works, is due unto God for his great benefits.3
By the mercies of God”
It is the mercy God that allows us to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, to God. He has made this possible in two distinct ways

  1. Christ has made us holy and acceptable.
    God is very particular about sacrifices he receives (see Leviticus...the whole book). He is very specific and, dare we say, picky. He expects perfection and accepts nothing less. This presents a problem for you and I because, we are imperfect...seriously imperfect. We could never present ourselves to God as an approved sacrifice, except for the amazing work of Jesus Christ. His perfect obedience that is counted towards those who believe allows us to present ourselves holy and acceptable to God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  2. Christ has made us alive.
    We could not present ourselves as a living sacrifice if we were not alive. And apart from the work of Christ, we would remain “dead in our trespasses”.(Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 2:6-15) Christ has made us alive, that we might walk in holiness, living in faith. In essence, He made us alive so that we might be living sacrifices.
A Sacrifice of Praise
It is also important to note what kind of sacrifice Paul is describing here. We do not present ourselves to God as a sin-sacrifice, we present ourselves as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
What does this mean? Simply, it means that we are not attempting to make ourselves right with God through our obedience. We are not trying to atone for our own sin, we are not even attempting to repay him for the gift He has provided. Our sacrifice, our obedience, our love and worship flows from our gratitude, not our guilt. There is no guilt left for a believer because all of our guilt was borne by Christ on the cross. The sacrifice God requires of us is a sacrifice of thanksgiving, recognizing not what we have to do, but what He has done. (Hebrews 10:1-10)

What is the importance of recognizing that the sacrifice of our life is not a sacrifice meant to cover sin but rather a sacrifice to express thanksgiving?
How does this effect how you interact with God and respond to commands such as the command found in Romans 12:1?
What are we sacrificing?
On December 4, 1857, David Livingstone, the great pioneer missionary to Africa, made a stirring appeal to the students of Cambridge University:
For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa...Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.204

No one can out give God. God is a lavish giver, a loving Father, and has all the resources in the world. He can never be outdone in showing affection, in loving kindness, in wonderful sacrifice. He sacrificed His only Son in order that those who were His enemies and dead in sin might be brought into His kingdom and made alive. Christ came so that those who believe might have life and have it in abundance. To sacrifice for Christ is to put to death the lesser joys of the world. To put to death that which fails to truly satisfy and to receive the greatest joy imaginable, Christ Himself. To see Him more clearly and to love Him more dearly is the gift that awaits those who choose to forsake lesser desires and present themselves as a living sacrifice to the one true God. As Francis Schaefer once penned, Every believer has the privilege of offering himself to God as a living sacrifice.”5 It is a privilege to offer ourselves to such a good God.

1Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 38, italics in original.
2 Keller, T. J. (2012). Center church: Doing balanced, gospel-centered ministry in your city. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
3 Ursinus, Z., & Williard, G. W. (1888). The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (483). Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company.
00 Cited in Samuel Zwemer, “The Glory of the Impossible,” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 3rd ed., ed. Ralph D. Winter and Stephen C. Hawthorne (Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey, 1999), 315, emphasis added.
4 Piper, J. (2003). Desiring God (243). Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers.
5 Schaeffer, F. A. (1982). The complete works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian worldview. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.